IROSIN, SORSOGON--- “We cannot win the war unless we address the root cause.” This is the message of Secretary Jesus G. Dureza of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) as he led the inauguration and turn over of the 1.7 kilometer PAMANA funded tramline in Cawayan this municipality. The P3.3 million tramline is the longest among the five tramlines established by the Department of Agriculture in the Bicol region.

Starting from the mountainous area of barangay Cawayan, the tramline ends at the beautiful Irosin Eco Zoo Park in barangay Patag.

Secretary Dureza emphasized the importance of peace and order in every community.  “We must learn from the lessons of what is happening in other areas like in Marawi. “What’s the use of this beautiful eco park if the people are apprehensive because of the armed men? Any kind of development will be useless if there is a problem with security, Sec. Dureza pointed out.”

Secretary Dureza also said that “in every peace negotiations, the government also offers some interventions to improve the livelihood of the people. This is the role of PAMANA. Without PAMANA, the people will be left out in the peace negotiation.” Dureza added that the tramline is just a little proof  of President Duterte’s concern for the smallest of the Filipinos.

PAMANA which stands for Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan, is being implemented by the OPAPP in cooperation with national government agencies such as the DA and the Local Government Units. PAMANA is on the fifth year of implementation in Bicol region. It seeks to address issues affecting the peace process through security, justice and development interventions in conflict-affected and vulnerable areas.

Irosin Mayor Alfredo J. Cielo Jr. said that in Irosin were armed conflict is a real and present danger, the projects of the Department of Agriculture serve to divert the attention of the people from rebellion and encourage them to cooperate with the government.

Municipal Agriculturist Nimfa Ferolino said that Cawayan was chosen as PAMANA project site because it is the farthest upland barangay of Irosin and the only barangay with no access road in the uplands. It is also bounded by mountains which makes it very vulnerable to insurgency. The area has an elevation of 300 meters.

Ferolino also added that the tramline will be very beneficial to the upland farmers cultivating various crops in Cawayan.  A total of  475.11 hectares in the barangay is planted to abaca, 176 hectares is devoted to coconut, over 3 hectares are planted with vegetabled, 5 hectares pili plantation, 3 hectares banana plantation, and 1.5 hectares are full of fruit trees.

Before the construction of the tramline, farmers in barangay Cawayan  endured three hours of hiking in the 4.6 kilometer narrow trail leading down to the national road in barangay Patag. Frequent rains make the road muddy and slippery.  Hauling of agricultural products such as coconut, abaca, pili and banana was very difficult for the farmers and the products also deteriorate fast from the long trek. Hauling cost ranged from P2.00 to P3.00 per kilo or sometimes 20% to 30% of the crops’ market value discouraging farmers to expand their farms.  Most of their products used to incur damages before they reach the market in the poblacion. 

According to Romeo Balderama, Jr, president of Cawayan Farmers Association which will mainly benefit from the tramline, with  the presence of the 1.7 kilometer tramline, the travel time from Cawayan to barangay Patag was reduced to only 25 minutes. All the 52 members, 39 of whom are women farmers and 13 men are very happy with the completion of tramline. “Matagal na po naming ipinagdarasal na magkaroon ng sagot sa matagal na naming problema sa transportasyon. Ngayon po ay mas marami na ang magtatanim dahil hindi na mahirap ang pagdadala ng aming mga produkto sa bayan,” said the farmers.

Engr. Nilda Albano, chief of DA Regional Agricultural Engineering Division (RAED) who represented DA Bicol Regional Executive Director Elena B. delos Santos, said that they have revised the design of the tramline to accommodate even the farmers bringing their products.

Florentino Ubalde, Jr., DA 5 PAMANA focal person said that the tramline is just one among the numerous  projects of PAMANA in the region implemented from 2013 to 2016.    

Also present during the inauguration were Sorsogon Governor Robert Lee Rodrigueza; Gubat Mayor Sharon Rose Escoto; Vice Mayor Christian D. Lim; Paul Escober, Head of the Southern Luzon (Bicol-Mimaropa-Calabarzon) PAMANA; Christopher Azucena; Barangay Captain Jesus B. ­Oblino of Cawayan; Bgy. Captain Leonel Gabito of Patag; barangay captains of Irosin; farmers and LGU staff. (Lovella P. Guarin/ photo credit Hermito Privaldos)