For residents of five barangays in Aroroy, Masbate, having a world-class farm-to-market road (FMR) such as the 15-kilometer Concreting of San Agustin to Tigbao FMR from the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) is worth more than a pot of gold.

This coastal town, known for its gold mine site, recently sets the record for completing its first PRDP infrastructure development (I-BUILD) subproject five months ahead of schedule. The 242.56 million-worth FMR will benefit a total of 11,541 individuals or 2,231 households, 1,836 of which are farmers and fisherfolk from five barangays in Aroroy. By improving access for both farm inputs and outputs to and from the production sites, the I-BUILD infrastructure subproject aims to support the municipality’s coconut value chain.

“Nung dati, nung open road pa lang itong kalsada na ito ay napakahirap ng transportasyon tungo dito sa barangay ng Tigbao lalo na yung mga farmers kung paano ita-transport yung mga produkto nila pang-agrikultura… lalo na kung panahon ng tag-ulan, napakahirap kung paano ide-deliver yung mga produkto nila, kung saan ide-deliver, saang lugar, napakahirap po ng transportasyon,” Jomar D. Oliva, Punong Barangay of Brgy. Tigbao Aroroy, Masbate, narrated.

Residents of Brgy. Tigbao used to travel by boat to reach the town center within 15 minutes. Meanwhile, travelling by land would take two hours. A two-hour land travel via motor bike from Brgy. San Agustin, on the other hand, costs P200 to P300. With the concrete FMR, travel time and fare were reduced to one hour and P100, respectively.

“Ang magandang naidulot nitong kalsada, napakaganda na po dahil ang mga produkto namin mabilis na maipunta dun sa bayan kasi konkreto na sya at kung sakaling may mga pasyente kami mabilis na yun madala papunta ng bayan kasi konkreto na nga,” Rey C. Oliva, Punong Baranggay of Brgy. Don Pablo Dela Rosa Aroroy, Masbate, said.

“Nakakatulong kasi sa mga may sakit papuntang Aroroy. Dati nung hindi pa ‘to kalsada galing San Agustin papuntang Malubi, papuntang Aroroy, masyadong mahirap ang daanan at malayo, mga dalawang oras ang byahe. Sa ngayon, mga isang oras na lang papuntang Aroroy,” Jonel Wilson Regala, Punong Barangay, Brgy. San Agustin Aroroy, Masbate.

Wilmor C. Marcaida, president of the Kapisanan ng mga Magniniyog at Magsasaka Pinag-isa (KAMPI), said that the PRDP-funded FMR is a blessing for farmers like him who used to suffer from the muddy, rough, and oftentimes, slippery road.

He added that the road development has resulted to increase in farmers’ income as it reduced the hauling cost of their agricultural products.

“Napakalaking tulong sa mga magsasaka at magniniyog at lalo na sa mga mangingisda na pabalik-balik, naghahatid ng kanilang mga produkto… Dati po ang kinikita namin ay napakababa dahilan sa napakalaking gastusin sa paghihila ng aming mga produkto. Ngayon na may daanan na, konti na lang ang ginagastos namin kasi mayroong habal-habal o mga tricycle o kaya itong mga motorbike na mura lang ang singil sa bawat sako ng niyog at palay at mga mais na galing sa aming sakahan,” he said.

Marcaida added that without the FMR, hauling cost of one sack of copra ranges from P50 to P100. Now, it is fixed at P50 per sack.

With the project’s completion, the Municipal Project Management Implementation Unit (MPMIU) of Aroroy, Masbate also projects a P1.9 million worth of savings in vehicle operating cost, reduction of transport losses by 3.3 percent on palay, 2.8 percent on copra, 9 percent on banana and 1.4 percent on corn. They also expect an expansion of agricultural area for cassava and coconut by 140 hectares on the first year after the project completion.

The PRDP-Bicol headed by Regional Regional Executive Director and PRDP-Bicol Project Director Rodel P. Tornilla turned over the San Agustin to Tigbao FMR to the local government unit of Aroroy on September 8, 2020.

Tornilla reminded the stakeholders, particularly the barangay beneficiaries of their significant role in the Operation and Maintenance (O&M) of the FMR. Based on the PRDP guidelines, the local government unit (LGU) is responsible for the O&M of the completed subproject for at least 10 years in accordance with the provisions stipulated in the operation and maintenance plan and subproject Implementation Management Agreement (IMA).

“Ang isang bubuo po sa sistema ng ating proyekto ay yung ating mga barangay kasi since ngayon po ay ibinigay na sainyo ang pangangalaga, yung operation and maintenance ng kalsadang ito, kayo na po ang mangangalaga nito,” he remarked.

PRDP is a national project jointly funded by the World Bank, the national government and the participating LGU that is being implemented by the DA to establish a modern, value chain-oriented and climate-resilient agri-fishery sector. (Annielyn L. Baleza, DA-RAFIS V)