Unlike previous years when some barangays in Caramoran, Catanduanes get isolated after the onslaught of typhoons, this year was different for residents of Brgy. Maui and Brgy. Panique—two of the four barangays within the road influence area of the 7.37 kilometer Concreting of Junction Sabangan-Datag East farm-to-market-road (FMR) in this municipality. Mobility was unhampered and response time to emergency situation was cut short.

According to Mayor Gladys Aguilar, before the PRDP-funded FMR was implemented, communities in said areas were at risk of landslide and flooding. They also struggled in conducting clearing operations which delay rehabilitation and relief efforts for typhoon-stricken families. This is because of the decade-old existing road being maintained by re-gravelling which was passable only to single motorcycles. The Datag East to Maui portion was rough with protruding stones while the Maui-Panique-Sabangan portion was muddy during rainy season.

“Ngayon po, pagbagyo, hindi na-isolate yung lugar kasi nandoon po yung equipment (ng contractor)… Nagtulungan kami ng kontraktor kasi probleman namin yun kung sakali… Pagdaing nung kapitan, hindi nga inabot ng 24 hours yun, passable agad,” said Aguilar.

Engr. Elsie Reyes, Provincial Project Management Implementation Unit (PPMIU) Head of Catanduanes, affirmed the local chief executive’s feedback saying, “Malaking tulong yung naibibigay noon kasi kung wala yung access road na yun, kung doon pa sila dadaan sa dating road na dinadaanan, mas matagal ang response time in case of disasters. With the reduced travel time, may masi-save na lives and properties in times of disaster.”

Engr. Wilfredo Francisco, site engineer of Honeyville Construction, the project contractor, said that to reduce risks and typhoon damage at the project site, he immediately ordered the workers to secure all equipment. After Supertyphoon Rolly and typhoon Ulysses, almost one kilometer of the road, which was completed on October 27, 2020, was covered by landslide.

“Sa sobrang lakas ng buhos ng ulan, na-saturate yung lupa at dumami yung landslide,” Francisco said.

Thus, to fast track the clearing operations, he requested for additional equipment such as payloader truck and backhoe. Francisco assured the PRDP and the community within the RIA that they will make the necessary repair and installation of slope protection before leaving the project site. He also expressed his appreciation of the PRDP-funded infrastructure development (I-BUILD) project.

“Thank you sa opportunity. Malaking bagay sa contractor bukod sa amin, nakatulong din kami para ma-improve ang barangay na ito.  Sa nakikita ko dapat lahat ng plano nasusunod, kahit mahigpit maganda naman ang resulta ng project,” he said.

Aside from reducing the response time during disasters, both the PPMIU and MPMIU-Caramoran cited the I-BUILD subproject’s benefits in its efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.

“During pandemic napakalaking tulong ng kalsada from PRDP. Hindi kami nahirapan sa pagdala ng mga relief goods kasi maganda na rin po yung daan,” Aguilar said. She added that the construction of the FMR provided job and income to local laborers.    

The P126.99 million-worth FMR was designed to decrease travel time from 60 minutes to 30 minutes. Also, it aims to complement the P19.45 million-worth PRDP enterprise development (I-REAP) subproject Abaca Fiber Processing and Trading Enterprise being implemented by the Pinoy Lingap Damayan Multi-Purpose Cooperative (PLDC) as it benefits the 4,058 population of four abaca-producing barangays in Caramoran namely Sabangan, Panique, Maui and Datag.  (Annielyn L. Baleza, DA RAFIS V)