The road problem in CAR

The Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) remains among the top five poorest regions in the country, primarily because it’s relatively closed off from the lack of good roads that should connect it’s towns and villages to one another, the rest of the region, and ultimately the country.

The recent typhoon, Ineng/Goni which brought non-stop extreme rain for three days has again caused damages to Halsema (Mountain Trail), the main highway connecting interior towns to Baguio City.  This is the only route available to local traders of vegetables, poultry, and other cottage based products which means if Halsema is closed for a week for repair, traders are forced to wait it out, a decision that impacts on the market and ultimately on their incomes.

It is not only Halsema.  Tadian has been closed off because landslides blocked it’s main road to Bontoc.  A colleague hiked six hours, and even counted 13 landslides along the way, to get to Bontoc.  The town is still closed to vehicular traffic as I write.  The road connecting Tadian to Ilocos Sur (via Cervantes), a project under former President GMA, is also rendered unpassable.

The Kayapa portion of the Baguio-Nueva Vizcaya Road was also closed off and then opened and just recently closed off again, prompting participants from Ifugao to an activity in Baguio City to go around via Mountain Province making their travel twice as long.

Roads are basic prerequisites for economic development.  The national government and local government units in the region must address this perennial issue once and for all.  Within the region, planning to address the problem of roads can be an avenue for cooperation among the mostly “warring” LGUs.  As mentioned in a previous post on the road repair along Loakan Road in Baguio City – which is by the way still at turtle pace – much of the road problem in this country will be addressed when anti-corruption measures are put in place and observed.

Also, required reporting of assessments after the onset of emergencies is also quite slow and only afterward did Mountain Province declared itself a calamity area in order to access emergency funds.  The news, sadly, has not provided a realistic picture of events post-Ineng.

The regional OCD on the other hand can do better to support the LGUs, given that at these times access to emergency response funds through appeals here and abroad is already standard operating procedure.  Moreover, how is it that staff of CSOs / development organizations are able to quickly deploy and produce rapid assessment reports and consequently response plans and assistance even if it meant walking through hell and putting off sleep but staff from public offices whose staff are on the people’s payroll not, relying on others’ reports instead?  If it should get a top-of-the-line chopper in order to conduct aerial assessment given the regularity of landslides in the region, then it should, or perhaps this is an instance when drones are a necessity.

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