Two villages in two different provinces in Southern Luzon are named after the same waterway that separates them: the Umiray River.
Soon, a bridge costing nearly half a billion pesos to build will connect Barangay (village) Umiray in Dingalan town in Aurora province to Barangay Umiray in General Nakar town in Quezon province, according to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
Philippine and Japanese officials broke ground at the boundaries of the two provinces on Wednesday to mark the start of the construction of the 358-meter, P468-million Umiray Bridge, which would connect not only Aurora and Quezon but also Central Luzon and Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon).
In a statement from the DAR, Undersecretary for Support Services Jerry Pacturan said the bridge would allow farmers and traders on both sides of the river to transport their goods with ease, spurring rural development, easing poverty and ensuring food security.
Residents of the two Umiray villages spend a considerable sum on moving goods across the river. Hauling costs them P50 to P70 and transport by boat costs them P20.
But once the bridge is finished by June 2014, the cost will be reduced to P15, Pacturan said.
The bridge will be completed in time for the expiration of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
Pacturan said the bridge would be a “fitting graceful exit project for the … social justice program” of the government.”
By then, farm goods can be transported on jeepneys or tricycles, he said.
“This project is the culmination of a three-year consultation and planning conferences between and among all concerned national and local government agencies in partnership with the Jica (Japan International Cooperation Agency),” Pacturan said in a speech shortly after the groundbreaking ceremonies.
Jica shoulders the bulk of the cost—at P368 million.
The bridge is part of the DAR project called Expanded Agrarian Reform Communities Development, Phase II.
Present at the groundbreaking were Sen. Edgardo Angara, his sister, Aurora Gov. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, Quezon Gov. David Suarez, Dingalan Mayor Zenaida Padiernos, General Nakar Mayor Leovigildo Ruzol, Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Toshinao Urabe and Jica senior representative Sachiko Takeda.
Angara said the bridge, once completed, would greatly help reduce travel time and expenses between the two provinces and spare residents the difficulty of going through long stretches of rough road to get to either Dingalan or General Nakar.
The DAR said 13,735 residents in four agrarian reform communities (ARCs)—Umiray in General Nakar and Umiray, Ibona and Matawe in Dingalan—would directly benefit from the bridge, as well as 36,358 residents in 18 villages surrounding the two towns.
The Japanese Embassy said the bridge would also serve as a lifeline for Dingalan and General Nakar, as it could be used as an alternative route for evacuations during typhoons, floods and landslides.