The road network in Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) has so far improved with 1,304 kilometers of built and improved roads coupled with 263 completed individual bridges, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said.
Of the 1,304-kilometer road projects, 144.3 kilometers were newly constructed, 313.13 kilometers were rehabilitated, 515.57 kilometers were upgraded and paved, and 54.39 kilometers were constructed and improved under the local program.
A total of 221.02 kilometers of access roads leading to tourism destinations, trades, industries, economic zones and farm-to-market roads were also delivered in the region.
Of the total built and improved bridges, 43 are newly built; 153 were improved and rehabilitated, while 47 bridges were constructed and improved under the local program.
Among the bridges opened last year are the Chico Karayan Bridge along Mt. Province-Nueva Vizcaya Road and the Lunas Bridge along Jct. Talubin-Barlig-Natonin-Paracelis-Calaccad Road.
Aside from roads and bridges, 387 flood mitigation structures and 2,468 classrooms under the DepEd’s Basic Educational Facilities Fund (BEFF) were also completed in the region.
“These infrastructure investments are effective tools to attract economic and social sustainability, help spur growth, create jobs, and achieve financial inclusion for Cordillerans,” DPWH Secretary Mark Villar said.
At present, two high-impact road projects are under construction and are poised to be completed this year and in 2022. These are the P9.788-billion Baguio-La Trinidad- Itogon-Sablan-Tuba-Tublay (BLISTT) Outer Ring Circumferential Road and the P7.499-billion Apayao-Ilocos Norte Road.
The BLISTT Outer Ring Circumferential Road project has a total length of 77.09 kilometers of paved national roads and 61.921 kilometers of local roads to be paved and constructed. It will decongest traffic in highly-urbanized centers of the BLISTT area, reducing travel time by 50-60 percent.
The Apayao-Ilocos Norte Road, on the other hand, is the missing link of the Cordillera Roads Improvement Project (CRIP) which will be the region’s backbone that will connect all provincial and major growth centers. It will also serve as a lateral access road for Regions I and II to the Cordillera.
It is a 65.58-kilometer road network with 12 bridges. It is expected to reduce travel time from the capital town of Kabugao, Apayao to Laoag City, Ilocos Norte via Calanasan, Apayao from 6 and a half hours to 3 and a half hours. About 3 kilometers of the road network remain unpaved and has been included in the FY 2022 Regional Budget Proposal. It is poised for completion by the end of 2022.
Adding to the ongoing road projects in the region is the rehabilitation of Kennon Road. Since its closure in 2018 due to the devastation brought about by several typhoons, more than P3 billion has been spent for its repair.
Of the 21 critical sections that required immediate and comprehensive repairs, 11 sections are undergoing construction works.
According to the agency, it will need additional allocation for the remaining five erosion-prone sections to be fixed before the 33.7-kilometer stretch can be fully opened to the public. Once repairs are finished, Kennon Road will still need to be converted into an all-weather road through a public-private partnership after the completion of its feasibility study.
Another big-ticket project under construction until the end of 2022 is the 18-kilometer mega dike/revetment and embankment dike along the Chico River from Calanan, Tabuk City to Magaogao, Pinukpuk, Kalinga. This P5.462-billion massive flood control structure covers 18 barangays.
The 4.6-kilometer bypass road dubbed as the “Great Wall of Baguio City” is also under way and is expected to be fully operational by 2023. It will connect the Major Mane Road to Kennon Road and is seen to become a local tourist destination as it provides a breathtaking 360-degree view of Benguet mountain ranges.
It will also decongest traffic in the Central Business District by serving as a bypass road from Kennon Road going to EPZA, Philippine Military Academy, Balatoc and Philex Mines.
More roads leading to tourism sites in Mountain Province are undergoing upgrade. One of these is the 9.446-kilometer Balili- Suyo- Sagada Road which starts at the end of the Dantay-Sagada Road in Barangay Ambasing, Sagada and ends at Baguio-Bontoc Road (Halsema Highway) in Barangay Balili, Bontoc Mt. Province. It is 85 percent complete.
Another road that will boost tourism is the 9.858-kilometer Sabangan-Sagada Provincial Road which is now 93.22 percent complete.
Once completed, these provincial roads will serve as alternate routes leading to the famous Sagada Caves, Hanging Coffins, Kiltepan Peak, Banao Lake, Bokong Lake, Latang Lake, Aguid and Fidelisan Water Falls, and Bumod-ok Waterfalls.
Completing the tourism road network in the region is the construction of the 11-kilometer Alimusgan-Bai-Cagayanan Road leading to Kaparkan Falls in Abra. It now has a 41 percent completion rate.
Meanwhile, nine isolation facilities have been constructed in the region under the government’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response. Six of the 11 evacuation centers built in the region are now being utilized as quarantine facilities.
The department is also implementing the P163-million major rehabilitation project of the Benguet Sports Complex and facilities in La Trinidad, Benguet. The completion of this multi-million sports facility will create opportunities for the province to host annual local, regional and national sports events such as the Palarong Pambansa or even a potential venue for bigger international tournaments.
“As DPWH continues its service delivery in CAR, the challenge to sustain its vigor and not to lose its focus on the policy direction of infrastructure development and inclusive economic growth remains steadfast,” Villar said.
“The agency is looking forward to another productive year of improving connectivity and mobility through regional integration and promoting safety and protection of lives and property through quality infrastructure,” the secretary added.