Japan builds P317-M bridge of hope in Aurora

By Jason de Asis


MARIA AURORA, Aurora, March 22, 2011-A P317-million concrete bridge funded through a grant from the Japan International Cooperation Agency dubbed as a “bridge of hope” was built which links 13 clustered barangays under the Department of Agrarian Reform’s agrarian reform communities (ARCs) in this town and giving a reprieve to hundreds of students who previously cross a river just to get to school during summer.


The 110-linear meter long, 5.4-meter wide Bazal concrete bridge is now being used by some 300 elementary and high school students who, prior to its construction wade through waters and get isolated from the rest of the province during heavy rains and typhoons.


The bridge was formally opened to vehicular traffic and turned over to the provincial government during recent inauguration ceremonies graced by Japanese Ambassador Makoto Katsura, JICA Chief Representative Norio Matsuda, Japanese Embassy First Secretary Takeshi Sata, and secretaries Virgilio Reyes of DAR, Jose De Jesus of the Department of Transportation and Communications and Enrique Ona of the Department of Health.


The bridge project was negotiated by Sen. Edgardo Angara, Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara and Gov. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo with the Japanese government in coordination with the DAR, the Department of Public Works and Highways, the provincial government and the municipal government represented by Mayor Ariel Bitong.


The funding for the bridge, which construction started in November 2009 and completed in November 2010, was sourced from the grant-in aide of Japan through JICA’s Official Development Assistance and counterpart funding from the Philippine government. During the one-year construction period, 100 local residents from the province were hired as workers.


Ma. Celerina Afable, division chief of the DAR’s project development and management office/foreign-assisted projects, said that the project is the only bridge project funded by JICA in the country involving the DAR as lead implementing agency.


The project was first conceptualized in 2003 during the term of then-DAR Secretary Jose Mari Ponce as one of the department’s identified ARC development projects for poverty alleviation, food security and agribusiness development.


Dr. Cristy Dagdag, DAR desk officer for the JICA bridge project said that the Bazal bridge was identified as one of the immediate needs of the people in the locality who expressed hope it would finally end their vicious cycle of isolation from the rest of Aurora during calamities. It was pursued when a typhoon struck in 2004, isolating Barangay Bazal.


Darlene Galicia, DAR provincial agrarian reform officer for Aurora, said that the project principally benefited 300 elementary pupils and high school students from Barangay Malasin who used to cross the Bazal river in getting to school.


Aside from Bazal and Malasin, Galicia said the bridge also links up a cluster of ARCs in barangays Wenceslao, Baubo, Bayanihan, Cadayacan, Decoliat, Diaayat, Diome, Galintuja, San Juan and Sto. Cristo.


Galicia said that the project was literally a “bridge of hope,” as it raised hopes of generating incremental income for farmers, establish agri-enterprises and upgrade the socio-economic and living conditions of the people.


With the bridge, the risks of students regularly crossing the Bazal river on their way to school as well as the vehicle operating cost of market agricultural products, farm inputs and commercial goods were drastically reduced. (Jason de Asis)

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