The Road to Transformation
The provinces of Samar and Eastern Samar, which are part of the Eastern Visayas region, have long been in the list of provinces with the highest poverty incidence.
Geography is one reason. Eastern Samar, in particular, sits on the eastern flank of the archipelago that is said to be the most storm-exposed country on earth. It faces the Philippine Sea that runs to the Pacific Ocean. At its south border is the Leyte Gulf. Along with the other provinces in Eastern Visayas and Northern Luzon, they usually bear the brunt of the frequent cyclones that enter Philippine territory.
Couple the average of nine tropical storms every year with the fact that coconut farming, fishing, food products, handicrafts and tourism are the major sources of income of the people, and it becomes easy to understand why life in the Samar Island is so hard.
Aiming to improve the living conditions and provide better access to economic opportunities in the area, MCC granted $214.44 million from the Philippine Compact for the reconstruction/rehabilitation of the 222-km Wright-Taft-Borongan-Guiuan Road and the rehabilitation/replacement of 61 bridges in Samar and Eastern Samar. The road segment, which passes through 14 municipalities and one city, is the main passage between the two provinces and improving the infamously rundown road would not only help lower transport costs and travel time, but also open up new possibilities and new markets.
MCA-P divided the Secondary National Roads Development Project (SNRDP) into four contract packages with each having their own contractors and timelines. The implementing agency partner was the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), led by DPWH Secretary Rogelio L. Singson. A consultant was also put on board to assist in ensuring that the road adheres to international standards and would be finished on time.
Notably, the collaboration of MCA-P and DPWH prudently used the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s model for predicting project risks and put in place climate-proofing measures in planning and designing the SNRDP.
As such, the project was able to withstand several storms, the biggest of which were Typhoon Yolanda in November 2013 and Typhoon Ruby in December 2014. It also managed to recover from an attack by rebel forces in a project site in CP4, as peace and order was soon restored with the necessary support from local and national government.
The people of Samar and Eastern Samar were grateful and fully supported the project. They reaped significant benefits from its implementation, not least of which is the number of jobs created for both skilled and unskilled labor. Just as significant is MCA-P’s introduction of its Social and Gender Integration Plan (SGIP) which encouraged women to also take active part in the project—not only in sieving sand or acting as flag wavers, but even as trained carpenters and welders.
The attention given to the gender issue also brought forth an anti-Trafficking in Persons (TIP) program, that the DPWH has now adopted in all its projects nationwide. Identified as a TIP hotzone due to the nature of activities and individuals involved in the project, the SNRDP stakeholders embarked on a massive anti-TIP campaign.
Because making lives better is really the goal, MCA-P ensured that no one was worse off because of the project’s implementation. MCA-P conducted consultations in the 14 municipalities and one city for project-affected entities (PAEs), and made certain that the owners of structures displaced by the project would be justly compensated for the inconvenience.
Impact on the environment was also properly assessed and mitigated by a Tree Replacement Program which entailed planting 100 seedlings for every tree cut—which translates to planting 772,900 tree seedlings around the project sites. For this Program, the DPWH obtained the services of the DSWD’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiaries in planting the trees to provide them additional income.
“The Tree Replacement Program as well as the utilization of the 4Ps families in the tree-planting contributes to the government’s National Greening Program and the Millennium Development Goals on the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, and at the same time ensuring environmental sustainability,” Secretary Singson notes.
The SNRDP also utilized innovations which further stimulated the local coconut industry, as DPWH advocated for the use of indigenous materials for slope protection and put up a common facility for making coco-nets using coconut fiber.
To ensure sustainability and maintenance of the road after the Compact ends, DPWH, together with DSWD and MCA-P, prepared an innovative Community-Managed Road Maintenance Program which “trained and capacitated community micro-enterprises for the purpose of road maintenance,” says Sec. Singson.
It is in the best interest of the communities to maintain the road and keep it clear and accessible especially after storms, he says, and with these micro-enterprises they have the organization, the tools and the skills to make it so.
Because the people deeply value the road that MCC has helped to build, it is the empowered communities of Samar and Eastern Samar themselves—hardworking, hopeful people—who shall guarantee that the legacies of SNRDP will last.
Click here to watch a video featuring SNRDP.