TUBOD, Lanao del Norte -- Residents of this province will be the first to take advantage of job opportunities resulting from the PHP7.3-billion Panguil Bay Bridge (PBB) project.
Tubod Mayor Leoncio Bagol made the assurance as he and local and national officials attended the groundbreaking ceremony of the bridge project on Wednesday.
"We have been waiting for this for so long. We consider this bridge a big help to our farmers in bringing their products to Ozamiz where they market their products," Bagol said.
President Rodrigo Duterte led the groundbreaking ceremony for the bridge, which would connect this town and the rest of Lanao del Norte to the Misamis Occidental city of Ozamiz.
Funded by the Korean Economic Development Cooperation Agreement through the Korean Export-Import Bank, the Panguil Bay bridge would be the longest bridge in the country at a length of 2.360 km.
It will have approach roads of 1.412 km. and two lanes each measuring 15 meters. Construction is set to begin in January.
Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Mark Villar said manpower accounts for at least 30 percent of the bridge's total budget.
"Magri-recruit talaga (ng mga workers) from the area, malaki ang employment na ma-generate ng project na ito (We will recruit workers from the area, and the project will generate a lot of jobs)," Villar said.
He added that even the employees of the shipping lines plying the Tangub-Ozamiz route will be prioritized for work in the PBB construction.
In his speech, Duterte thanked the Republic of Korea for funding the project, saying he considers it as Korea's gift to the Filipinos.
"Korea has a special attachment to the Filipino people. You know why? We fought in the Korean war and a lot of Filipinos died," he said.
The President noted that the bridge will shorten trips from Cagayan de Oro City and Iligan City to the cities of Ozamis, Oroquieta, Dipolog, and Dapitan.
The faster flow of goods, he said, will undoubtedly improve both the local and regional economies.
According to Villar, the PBB is the first of 16 bridges to be built that will connect Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao under the Duterte administration's flagship "Build, Build, Build" program.
Meanwhile, Department of Tourism 10 (Northern Mindanao) Director May Salvaña-Unchuan said the project will also boost the region’s tourism industry, especially because "farm tourism" is gaining popularity nationwide.
Lanao del Norte Governor Imelda Quibranza-Dimaporo said she was "overwhelmed" with joy as no less than the President himself led the groundbreaking ceremony.
"I am so happy that finally, after more than 30 years, this project was realized and then, no less than President Duterte came here for the groundbreaking. The people here are really very happy. It's a dream come true what had just happened here," Quibranza-Dimaporo said.
She added, "This bridge is like the door of investment, not only in Lanao del Norte but even in Misamis Occidental, Ozamis City, and Tangub City. We have so many tourist attractions here. In fact, the bridge will also become a tourist destination because it has a design, it has character and it's the longest in the Philippines," she said. (PNA)