MANILA, Philippines --- Key local government officials from all over the country and leaders of the academe and religious sector lauded the Aquino government for its resolve to place on its list of infrastructure priorities the construction and restoration of bridges to keep pace with economic growth, accelerate rehabilitation efforts in calamity-stricken areas and bolster peace efforts, especially in Mindanao.
Led by Governors Eugene Balitang of Ifugao and Carlito Marquez of Aklan, provincial officials lauded the swift replacement of bridges in their provinces which were destroyed by recent typhoons.
Negros Oriental Rep. Henry Pryde Teves and Benguet Rep. Ronald Cosalan issued separate statements urging the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) to urgently consider the activation of an emergency bridge calamity response unit under the President's Bridge Program office, implementation and management by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
Cosalan is the chairman of the House Committee on Public Works and Highways while Teves heads the Committee on Agrarian Reform.
Balitang and Marquez said the bridge construction, reportedly undertaken as part of the Tulay ng Pangulo program, have revived economic activities in many localities.
The Tulay ng Pangulo was implemented by the two previous government administrations and mostly financed by the British government.
The project, which never faced adverse audit findings from the Commission on Audit (COA), had been adjudged the best official development assistance performer by the Government Auditors Confederation.
Through assistance from the President's Bridge Program office, the Department of Public Works and Highways supplied technical assistance and materials from British supplier Mabey & Johnson - one "Compact 200" single lane steel superstructure 52 lineal meters long for the emergency detour bridge, and one Delta-type double lane superstructure for the reconstruction of the Burnay Bridge in Ifugao that collapsed last year.
Marquez inaugurated recently the Madalag Bridge, a 200-meter, double- lane, modular steel wonder that links Madalag to Banga in Aklan.
Teves recalled that the DPWH was reported to have maintained in the apst stock piles of modular steel bridge components in various depots in the country.
Former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr. backed the call for the construction of more bridges that are "essential elements" in boosting local economy.
"This (ODA) is clearly advantageous to the government," Pimentel said.
Prof. Merlyn Magallona, former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law, also lauded the ODA program which has tapped new bridge technology that are durable.
Bishop Ramon Villena of the Diocese of Bayombong, Nueva Ecija, called on government to help Cagayan jumpstart the development of its industries and agriculture through the construction of regional bridges.
Villena was former chairman of the Cagayan Regional Development Council.