By Ali G. Macabalang
Protracted construction works on three bridges along Mulondo-Wao highway in Lanao del Sur have finally got fund allocations to complete the projects “within this year,” according to local contractors.
The family of Abdulraheem D. Hadjimalic, owner-manager of CDH Construction firm involved in the projects, made the reassuring announcement on Monday, Feb. 22 amid viral exchanges of words among local professionals and concerned personalities in the Bangsamoro region reacting to a dialog-instigating message posted earlier in the day by this writer on “Amanah Tapatan Forum” (formerly New Mindanao Watch) of the Facebook.
Hadjimalic and his son Mohammad Fahad Mocsir HadjiMalic apologized for the inconvenience caused to commuters by the stunted construction works, explaining in private messages to this writer that the delay stemmed from phase-by-phase fund releases that started in 2012.
Meanwhile, residents including local government personnel and other construction firms had lamented that while highways surrounding Lanao del Sur and segments along the Secretary Narciso Ramos Highway linking the province to Maguindanao “have started gradual improvements, grasses continued to grow as high as three meters tall along roadsides because of “absence of highway maintenance funds.”
Earlier, some nitizens aired dismay over uncomfortable experiences in passing through detours of the three bridges along Maguing town, prompting this writer to float their sentiments in a post titled “3 bridges along Maguing, Lanao Sur unfinished despite releases of funds long ago, commuters complained.”
In the trade of comments, including satirical reactions, Dr. Anshari P. Ali, chancellor of the Gen. Santos City campus of the Mindanao State University, batted in to confirm that he “personally passed by the 3 bridges and we found them looking like (they were) just started but we heard that said projects were certified as completed projects.”
The three bridges form part of the construction of 53-kilometer Mulondo-Wao road, which the national government on instigation of Gov. Bombit Alonto-Adiong launched in 2012 to end decades of isolation of Amai Manabilang and Wao towns in road link from Marawi City and the rest of Lanao del Sur.
In August 2015, Gov. Adiong announced the completion of 41 kilometers of the total stretch, saying that succeeding appropriations would eventually lead to full opening of concreted highway between Marawi City and Wao. He said the project was cherished by his constituents and his father, the late former governor and ex-congressman Mamintal Sr. as a “provincial dream.”
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), through its Region 10 office in Cagayan de Oro City, had awarded to local contractors the opening and concreting of the 53-kilometer road alongside six bridges. One of the contractors was the FIAT Construction firm owned by Hadji Farouk Macarambon, who reported on Monday that his team had “finished” its 20-kilometer assignment “four years ago.”
Hadjimalic said his CDH Construction was awarded 17.5-kilometer of the stretch along Maguing town including the controversial three bridges. As of Monday, he said, the road concreting assignment was more than “80 percent” completed.
The remaining uncompleted 800-meter section has been allocated fund under the 2021 General Appropriations Act expected to be released soon for the DPWH-Region 10 to issue Notice to Proceed, according to Hadjimalic’s son, who owns the Lecar Builders undertaking the unfinished road section.
“Rest assure sir that we will work hard to finish (the 800-meter section)…Taga (Maguing) po kami mismo… and it is our pride and honor na taposin at gandahan ang projects (ncluding bridges) kase at the end of the day kami po at aming mga kababayan ang pangunahing makikinabang,” Mohammad Fahad, told the Philippine Muslim Today news. Mohammad Fahad apologized for his earlier adverse remarks, hinting that he and his father thought the social media post was meant to besmirch their family and companies’ reputation.
The father explained that their works on the three bridges received Phase 1 funding in 2016 and the Phase 2 fund has been incorporated in the 2021 GAA for release possibly this quarter or the next.
Once the Phase 2 fund is released, the Abdulmalics assured that works on the bridges would be finished in three to six months.
Reiterating plea for understanding on public inconvenience over the non-completion of the bridges, the father said his family has even spent its own funds for the construction of the detour routes, denying allegations that commuters were being compelled to pay 20-pesos per vehicle.
“I can’t allow my family to consume something haram,” the father said in the vernacular.
Lack of road maintenance
Meanwhile, FIAT Company owner Macarambon urged the media to help bring to the attention of national authorities about the “absence of highway maintenance funds,” hinting that such problems have been perennial “only in ARMM and BARMM.”
Macarambon, who has been engaged in construction industry for decades, was referring to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the succeeding Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
The defunct 29-year old ARMM used to have its Public Works and Highways cabinet department, but the national DPWH main office has been using its field offices in Regions 9, 10 and 12 in construction, repair and maintenance of highways in the region.
Because of such flimsy trends, the succeeding BARMM created its own Ministry of Public Works (MPW), excluding any responsibility for national highway construction, repair and maintenance.
Informed of controversies concerning delayed national highways and bridges’ construction works as well as lack of maintenance and rehabilitation funds, BARMM Parliament Member Paisalin “Popoy” Tago said on Monday he would initiate a legislative inquiry on the issue in aid of legislation to settle the inadequacy once and for all.
Tago, a former speaker of the abolished ARMM-Regional Legislative Assembly, said his inquiry could help correct impressions by residents from the outside blaming officials of the regional autonomy about bad road conditions in the Muslim Mindanao region. AGM