GMA’s joy ride in Sagada and corrupted roads


By GINA DIZON

Sagada, Mt. Province – The whirring of helicopters disturbed the stillness of 7:30, the morning of December 29, when these hovered closely over this tourist town.


NEGOTIATING THE RUGGED TERRAIN. The first family walks through the steep pathway leading to Lumiang Burial Caves during her visit in Sagada, Mountain Province last week. Photo courtesy of PIA-MP

An advance party came to prepare the coming of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for a holiday visit. Chopper after chopper ferried the presidential entourage until finally two hours later, Arroyo came.  She alighted from the chopper and greeted officials who were around, including Mountain Province Governor  Maximo   Dalog,  Sagada  Mayor  Edward Latawan,  Presidential  Adviser  for Cordillera Affairs  Tom Killip,  and  Bontoc Mayor  Franklin Odsey.  It seems the ceremonial lei giving to dignitaries is not observed in Sagada.

I saw Ambasing Barangay Captain Francis Kilongan and in jest asked him why he was not at the heliport to welcome the president.  He said, he was  called by officials at  dawn  to  have the tourist  sites  cleaned up  particularly the  Hanging  Coffins and  Lumyang Cave for the Presidential visit.

It would have been better if  barangay officials met with the President to let her know their local concerns  considering  that  their  areas of jurisdictions are the places the  President  actually visited.

Anyway, what else did GMA do in Sagada?

One of the members of the Sagada Police who was then stationed near Yogurt House said  she would be  going to Rock Inn for some coffee, visit  Lumyang Cave,  have lunch at Café St Jo, then leave after that.

The President has visited Sagada three times. The first was on January 02, 2006, when she promoted Mountain Province’s local products including lang-ay wines, woven products and Sagada coffee.

On this visit, she was given a warm reception at the Saint Mary School grounds by the community. She then gave a press conference and lunch at Café Saint Jo.

The second time was in December 2006 when the President dropped by for some yogurt at Yogurt House after she had a look at the much-visited Hanging Coffins in Ambasing barangay with members of the press.

Dilapidated road

This year, somebody also said there will be a press conference at Café Saint Jo but there was none.

It would have been an occasion to know what she can do for the century-old 10 kilometer Sagada-Dantay road, which remains dusty and rugged.

Following the 20 million Bayan Muna project four years ago, and P1 million from the Provincial Government, a long stretch of the dilapidated road measuring some seven kilometers more still needs concreting.

GMA gave P100 million for road improvement when she came in 2005. A part of the P100 million went to the concreting of the Dantay junction. The rest of the sorry-looking road is still dusty and grumpy-looking as ever and commands a P45 jeep fare through the equally rugged way and dusty road to Bontoc.

It would have also been a time to know her thoughts on the unfinished multimillion “state-of-the-nation address” (SONA) projects at the Halsema Road portion from the end of the Baguio- Benguet Road at Sinto, Bauko, vis-a-vis corruption. A long stretch of the road still remains undone despite funds already poured into the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

From the initial P620 million released in November 2006  split among more than 20  individual contracts, the road  still  suffers from  unfinished and expired contracts after the much publicized press releases that only 15% of the road  is  left unimplemented  by DPWH.  A rugged and dusty road still stretches from Bontoc to Sabangan and on to Bauko.

Complaints have reached the office of DPWH head Hermogenes Ebdane and office of the President, on expired contracts which led to an investigation of the road implementation and irregularities noted.

While this is the case, the amount of P684 million has been released last December to winning contract bidders.

Funding the visit

Speaking of funds, a resident asked why GMA does not fund her own accommodations. Two years ago, Sagada’s municipal government spent P80, 000 for this.

“The funds spent on GMA’s trip could have been used for community projects,” one resident said.

Robert , a tourist from Manila said,  “GMA could have given the funds for this trip to Sagada, the chopper and staff  cost for the  improvement of  Dantay-Sagada  road instead.” # (NorDis)

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