By ALI G. MACABALANG
COTABATO CITY – Odds in lack of funds for maintenance or improvement on national highways in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) have resurfaced in social and mainstream media, with town and regional officials renewing calls for higher authorities for prompt remedies.
The Philippine Muslim Today (PMT) news for the nth time took video footage on tall grasses along national roads straddling seven of 39 towns in Lanao del Sur, notably between Calanugas and Taraka municipalities on August 10 while covering a field sortie of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) in the latter town. A photo culled from the footage was posted on Facebook and drew words of surprises.
The PMT took photos on Aug. 25 of a holes-studded section of the four-lane highway along barangay Macaguiling of Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao after Municipal Mayor Shameem Mastura and BARMM Parliament Member Ali B. Sangki lamented about the sad state of the road.
During the later years of the now abolished Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), highway maintenance in Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and the corridor of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi (BASULTA) was being taken care of by the regional offices of the Department of Public Works and Highways in Regions 10, 12 and 9, respectively.
The BARMM governance has created its Ministry of Public Works (MPH), leaving to the national government through the DPWH the duty to build national highways or maintain and improve existing national streets in the region. MPW would only be taking care of provincial roads and vertical infrastructure projects, according to Minister Ed Guerra.
BARMM officials said the current lull on maintenance and improvement of national roads in the autonomous region is one of several issues that have yet to be resolved by the Inter-Government Relations Body (IGRB).
The IGRB is co-chaired by Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez for the national government and Education Minister Mohagher Iqbal for the BARMM governance
It was learned that the DPWH has recommended the establishment of a project management office (PMO) in BARMM as its direct conduit for the building of new national roads or maintenance and improvement highways in the area of autonomy.
But the specific location(s) of PMO(s) will have to be decided through an institutional mechanism, which the IGRB has yet to set up, sources said.
In the recent separate posts, Mayor Mastura and MP Sangki said they had made representations to higher officials to cause prompt maintenance or improvement of existing highways before traffic accidents would happen. But the latter hinted at the DPWH office in Region 12 to have the responsibility for highways in Maguindanao as previously done in past years.
But DPWH-12 Regional Director Basir Ibrahim said his office has been long relieved of function over and resources for maintenance of national highways in Maguindanao.
“I welcome anybody to check on our records…In case, one can find even a single cent of maintenance fund for Maguindanao in our records, I will immediately resign,” Director Ibrahim told the PMT by phone.
As a fellow Bangsamoro, he said, he would also want the national government through the central DPWH office to address the problem of highway maintenance in Maguindanao and elsewhere in BARMM. AGM