Bongao is the capital of the Province of Tawi-Tawi. It is home to the famous Bud Bongao (Bongao Peak), pristine white sand beaches and marine-resource-rich waters that still reflects the same shades of blue-green spectrum back when it was still just a mere backwater village.
Over the past five years, more than 30 kilometers of road project concreting, expansion/rehabilitation, worth more than half billion pesos has been implemented by DPWH-ARMM Tawi-Tawi DEO in the Municipality of Bongao alone and the office continue with other projects such as ports expansion, shore protection and other infra projects to improve services and boost economic activities in Tawi-Tawi’s capital.
As the seat of governance in the southernmost province of the Philippines and with its captivating natural beauty, the province holds great potential to be one of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s (ARMM) centers of trade and commerce by serving as a major thoroughfare for freight industries of the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP EAGA); as an eco-tourism town and as a major exporter of seaweeds, fish, crabs and other sea products in the area.
Holding such potentials, the rapid development of Bongao as the southernmost center of commerce and trade in the Philippines and of the ARMM, has been one of the main focus of the Hataman Administration as billions worth of infrastructure projects pour in the town.
During the community consultations of the Department of Public Works and Highways of ARMM (ARMM-DPWH) in Tawi-Tawi last week, Secretary Don Mustapha Loong and Engineer Tony Kamlani, head of Tawi-Tawi Distrcit Engineering Office (DEO), together with other officials, inspected some of these projects.
One of these projects is the concreting of Datu Halun-Lamion Road, a two kilometer major road in down-town Bongao used by commuters and motorists going to schools, public market and shops along Ridjki Boulevard. The road has been widened to cater the every growing traffic demands of Bongao. During the inspection, Sec. Don Mustapha Loong took notice of the infamous boulder along the road that has caused many accidents in the past as pedestrians and motorist tries avoiding it – it has now been removed to give way for the road widening. Fatima Abdul, a waitress in one of the restaurants along the road, told us how the revetment of the road gives me them a huge relief. “Many got into accidents here because the road was so narrow. Every vehicle wants to go first and many of them often get into accident as they try to avoid the big rock along the road,” said Fatima.
DPWH-ARMM Tawi-Tawi DEO is also doing an expansion and upgrading of Ridjki Boulevard, one of Bongao’s busiest street markets. What used to be one of the road’s lanes now only shows some cracked block of road sections, as old road structures has been washed out by waves over decades time. Despite its conditions however, many motorboats still anchor at this side of the boulevard.
Tawi-Tawi DEO Project Engineer Edgar Quinte said the road had been in such long condition and they are glad now that it is being repaired.
Engineer Quinte was awarded as Most Innovative Engineer during DPWH-ARMM’s 25th Anniversary for inventing an improvised reinforcement concrete pile driver using motors, which allowed them to complete projects even without the use of crane and other heavy equipment. Engineer Quinte uses the same invention as the project engineer of Ridjki Boulevard Expansion Project.
The Tawi-Tawi DEO is also doing road re-blocking in residential areas of Bongao. The cracked roads in the New Housing Project area of the town are now being replaced. Engineer Martin Maing, Assistant District Engineer of Tawi-Tawi DEO said “the residents actually paved each section of roads in front of their houses that’s why they did not last long.” The area is also flood prone, a reason why repair of these roads were complemented by the office with a drainage system.
Furthering inspections, we reached Salamat Street where a box culvert drainage system excavation is ongoing. The Brangay Poblacion of Bongao is a flooded area, the drainage systems often get clogged with plastic bottles and other rubbish preventing rain water from flowing through the canal and out to the ocean.
According to OIC Barangay Captain of Poblacion, discipline is yet a bigger problem than the flood itself. He said, theirs is a bigger challenge to educate their people and to impose discipline among them regarding proper waste disposal. Ironically, not far from the said ongoing construction of box culvert drainage is a pool of floating garbage surrounded by houses.