Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

President of the Republic of the Philippines 2001 - 2010

Transport Infrastructure

Perspective

The past decade saw Government achievements in infrastructure development that are unparalleled in Philippine history. Roads, bridges, farm-to-market roads, ports, and airports across the country were constructed and rehabilitated on a massive scale. Enormous investments were made in power generation and distribution to assure the population of adequate and stable power supply.

The goal of these achievements was clear: to have a safe, affordable, and efficient transportation network throughout the Philippine archipelago so that industries may thrive and progress may reach even the most far-flung of towns.

To speed up land travel all over the country, the Government, through its Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), from 2001 to 2009, improved and constructed a total of 47,773 kilometers of national roads and 289,944 lineal meters of national bridges amounting to P250 billion, five new airports, and of existing airports upgraded three and improved 71. Another five airports are currently under construction.

To encourage inter-island trade and commerce and domestic tourism, the Government established the Strong Republic Nautical Highway (SRNH), a highway through the sea that uses roll-on-roll-off (RORO) ferry terminals and RORO vessels to link the country's many islands. The whole SRNH framework involved not only ports and shipping lines but road transportation as well.

To allow for a more focused approach to the development not just of transportation infrastructure but agricultural and industrial facilities and other support systems as well, the Government formed the country's regions on the basis of their competitive advantage. Thus was borne the Super Regions Development Strategy, a strategy that built upon the economic strengths of each region with carefully planned investments and sought to trasnsform these regions into centers of growth throughout the country. The five Super Regions are the North Luzon Agribusiness Quadrangle (NLAQ), Urban Luzon Beltway (ULB), Tourism Central Philippines, Agribusiness Mindanao, and the Cyber Corridor.

This paper describes the Government's infrastructure achievements as these are laid out in the five Super Regions.

I. The North Luzon Agribusiness Quadrangle Super Region

Home to around 13 million Filipinos, the Northern Luzon Agribusiness Quadrangle or NLAQ is blessed with a climate and topography that is ideal for the cultivation of a variety of crops and livestock. The region has always played a crucial role in the country's food security. The NLAQ is composed of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), Regions I (Ilocos), II (Cagayan), and portions of Region III, particularly the northern parts of the provinces of Aurora, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, and Zambales.

Despite the lush potential in agriculture, poverty remains a problem in need of an urgent solution. The provinces of Apayao, Abra, Mt. Province, and Kalinga are among the top 20 poorest provinces in the country, while Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Ifugao, La Union, Pangasinan, and Ilocos Sur have high poverty incidences. One of the primary reasons for the grinding poverty plaguing the region is the lack of access to markets amidst its agricultural wealth. Reaching farms in the upland and coastal areas of Northern Luzon has been a perennial setback in bringing lasting development in the countryside.

Progress does not happen overnight, and certainly not without the proper interventions. Investments were poured into agriculture facilities and major infrastructure projects to support the overall advancement in the northern provinces. Since 2001 up to 2009, the region has seen the construction and rehabilitation of 7,981 kilometers of roads, 2,093 kilometers of farm-to-market roads (FMR), and 9,736 lineal meters of bridges.

The NLAQ is part of the roadmap to harness the country's drive towards agricultural productivity and increased food production. Its proximity to major markets in North Asia opens up more opportunities for trade and tourism. More importantly, the linking of NLAQ provinces to markets in Metro Manila provides support to farmers in transporting their goods faster and safer.

A. Roads, Highways, Bridges

The upgrading and concreting of the Bontoc-Tabuk-Tuguegarao Road connects the Pan-Philippine Highway in Tuguegarao and the Halsema Highway in Bontoc, serving as an inter-regional link between CAR and Region II. It also cuts travel time from Bontoc to Tuguegarao from five and a half hours to three hours.

With the widening and concreting of the Halsema Highway, transporting farm products to the marketplaces is made easy. The completion of the La Union-Mt. Data-Bontoc-Banaue section of the highway decreases travel time between Baguio to Bontoc from seven hours to four and a half hours. This improvement in a major road network will lessen the occurrence of landslides during the rainy months. Furthermore, travelers can enjoy a safer, faster, and more pleasant journey to the breathtaking Banaue Rice Terraces.

The 120-kilometer Baler-Aurora-Casiguran Road is expected to boost the potential of Aurora as a tropical adventure travel destination. This road speeds up travel time between Baler, Quezon and Casiguran, Aurora from eight hours to just three hours.

The P16-billion Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) will run from the end of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway in La Paz, Tarlac all the way to Rosario, La Union. This 88-kilometer expressway is expected to spur development by extending the infrastructure backbone of integrated expressways to North Luzon.

B. Seaports

As an alternative means of transporting goods and produce, the Government has also invested in the improvement of the area's ports. From 2001 to 2009, 12 seaports were constructed, upgraded, and improved, which amounted to P414 million.

The P96-million Dingalan Port Development Project in Aplaya, Aurora includes port development and the construction of a passenger terminal building. The project is expected to enhance the agriculture, fishing, and mining industries in the Dingalan area and nearby municipalities.

The Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) saw the completion of the P475-million rehabilitation project of Port Irene in Sta. Ana, Cagayan. The port will contribute to the overall advancement of the region, particularly because of its support to the tobacco industry of Region II. Moreover, traders and fishermen will be able to transport their products by sea, instead of coursing imports and exports through Metro Manila.

C. International Points of Entry

The upgrading of 12 airports in NLAQ will accelerate the transportation of agricultural products and other export goods at a lower cost. Tourism is also expected to thrive as these airports can accommodate more passengers and bigger aircrafts.

The Poro Point International Airport, for instance, will open up the Poro Point Economic Zone for the benefit of the industries located therein. The strategic location of the P96-million Bagabag Airport development in Nueva Vizcaya is expected to boost the region's local economy. In order to channel the tourism and cultural prospects of the Batanes Islands, the Basco Airport and the Itbayat Airport will make the northernmost islands more accessible to tourists and businessmen. The Casiguran Airport in Aurora paves the way for a safer and faster means of travel from Manila to Casiguran.

D. Agricultural Facilities

Being a region whose lifeline is in agribusiness, it is pertinent that the North Luzon farmers obtain the support system that will enable them to become more self-sufficient and productive. From 2001 to 2009, some 54,000 hectares of farmlands were given irrigation, while 104,000 hectares were restored and rehabilitated. Through massive investments in agriculture facilities, intensive farming, and multi-cropping, seasonal farming jobs became a yearlong livelihood for many farmers in NLAQ.

Aside from the national and communal irrigation systems, the Government is undertaking three major irrigation projects, namely the Banaoang Pump Irrigation Project, Agno River Integrated Irrigation Project, and the Casecnan Multipurpose Irrigation and Power Project.

For the protection of crops, flood control projects were implemented. The Laoag Basin Flood Control and Sabo Project and the Agno River Basin Flood Control Project will safeguard hectares and hectares of agricultural, commercial, and residential lands.

Power projects were also undertaken to supply the energy requirements of agribusiness establishments in the region. The 33-MW Bangui Bay Windfarm in Ilocos Norte is the pioneer commercial capacity on-grid wind farm in Southeast Asia. It greatly improved Ilocos Norte's energy reliability, supplying about 30% of the province's energy requirement. The San Roque Multi-Purpose project, on the other hand, will adequately respond to the growing demand in the Luzon Grid by utilizing the Agno River as hydrosource.

II. The Urban Luzon Beltway Super Region

At the heart of the Urban Luzon Beltway or ULB are the country's centers of industry, trade, and commerce. The free port zones in Subic, Clark, and Mariveles, the business, financial, and commercial centers of Metro Manila, and the IT parks and economic zones in CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon) make for an idyllic sanctuary for both the big-time investor and even the modest businessman.

Situated at the heartland of the Asia-Pacific Region, the ULB is a haven for both foreign and local investments, particularly in the logistics industry. The ULB is, after all, composed of areas that collectively contribute around 53% of the country's economy. It is the vision of the government to transform the ULB into an industrial and services hub that meets international standards.

The ULB has limitless potential that can greatly contribute to the nation's development. Its growth led to higher employment, from an average of 86.7% in 2000 to 89.5% in 2009. The ULB's regional economies have generally expanded by 39% from P543 billion in 2002 to P754 billion in 2008. Commodities in the ULB became more affordable as inflation slowed down from 3.83% in 2000 to 2.90% in 2009. Government revenues from tax collection increased from P500 billion in 2005 to P665 billion in 2007 primarily due to the development of the ULB. Lastly, the BIR revenue collection in the ULB makes up 58.56% of national revenues.

It comes as no surprise that investments in the area were intensified in recent years in hopes to harness the growth potential of the ULB. Through the improvement and integration of its transport infrastructure system, the ULB will be transformed into a globally competitive logistics and services hub in the coming years.

A. Roads, Highways, Bridges

Better access will lead to more investments, bringing development to the provinces and thus, uplifting the lives of many Filipinos. To effectively link the supply chain from the free ports to the commercial and trading centers in the south of the ULB, the Government invested in infrastructure projects that will seamlessly connect Central Luzon, NCR, and CALABARZON. Hence, a total of 3,299 kilometers of roads and 14,786 lineal meters of bridges were constructed and rehabilitated from 2001 to 2009.

The 120-kilometer Tarlac-Nueva Ecija-Aurora-Dingalan Port Road strategically connects the three major provinces of Central Luzon: Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, and Aurora. The project aims to propel agriculture, tourism, and industrial growth by linking the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway with the Dingalan Port.

The Marikina-Infanta Road connects the provinces of Rizal and Quezon to the National Capital Region (NCR). It is expected to boost development of the northeastern towns along the Pacific Coast. This highway starts at Marikina City and passes through Antipolo City, where it intersects the Sumulong Highway. The Marikina-Infanta road begins its ascent towards the Sierra Madre mountain range until it enters the municipality of Tanay.

The completion of the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR) supports the CALABARZON Development Area. The construction of the P2.5-billion Lipa to Batangas section of the STAR cuts travel time from Sto. Tomas to Batangas City by 40 minutes. In addition, this section improves the transport of agricultural products, electrical and industrial equipment, and construction materials to and from the Port of Batangas.

The completion of the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) will enable people residing in nearby provinces to bear the daily commute to Metro Manila, where most of the centers of industry and commerce are located. Furthermore, the completion of a 22-kilometer expressway linking NLEx and SLEx will allow motorists to seamlessly travel from north to south.

The Manila-Cavite Expressway Project will not only alleviate heavy traffic along Aguinaldo Highway and Tirona Highway, but will also serve as a direct link between Metro Manila and the Export Processing Zone in Cavite.

For the convenience of travelers, the high-speed, elevated Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Expressway will connect the new NAIA Terminal 3 and the Centennial Terminal to the Metro Manila Skyway, South Luzon Expressway (SLEx), Fort Bonifacio to the east, and Roxas Boulevard to the west. Likewise, the NAIA Expressway will connect NAIA Terminals 1 and 3 for the benefit of transiting airline passengers.

The 37-kilometer South Luzon Expressway (SLEx) Extension Project will form part of the seamless expressway connecting Metro Manila and the International Port in Batangas. The project consists of three segments: the Alabang viaduct, Alabang to Calamba, and Calamba to Sto. Tomas. The project will extend towards Sto. Tomas, Batangas to connect with the STAR in order to encourage and sustain the economic activities in the CALABARZON area and the Strong Republic Nautical Highway. The SLEx Toll Road 3, set to be completed within 2010, shall have connected five expressways along the Subic and Clark economic zones, the commercial and IT centers of NCR, and the industrial zone in Laguna and Cavite, plus the two main industrial ports in the ULB.

The Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) reduced travel time from two and a half hours going from Subic to Tarlac to an hour. From NLEx in Balintawak, going to Subic is now an hour faster. Travel time to Baguio is reduced by about an hour when passing through the Tarlac portion of the expressway and avoiding several town centers where traffic is heavy.

The NLEx-Pres. Carlos Garcia Ave. (C5)-SLEx Link Project aims to promote hassle-free travel between northern and southern Metro Manila and cut travel time by about 30-45 minutes.

The EDSA Rehabilitation Project improved the travel speed along EDSA from an average of 23.11 kph in 2003 to 38.23 kph upon its completion in 2009.

The project also included the provision of footbridges and the widening of sidewalks for the safety of the commuting public.

B. Seaports and Roro

Enhancing the competitive advantage of the region means continuous infrastructure support for the industries located therein. The Government ensured the efficient movement of goods in the supply chain through various seaport and RoRo projects. The Subic Bay Port Development Project, for example, resulted in the port's increased capacity, enough to accommodate an additional 600,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) yearly.

The Batangas Port Development Project allows the port to accommodate Panamax and post-Panamax size vessels and approximately 400,000 TEUs of cargo annually. It has the capacity to serve cargo ships passing through the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean.

The Lucena Port connects the northern and southern parts of the ULB, and has generated livelihood for port vendors, cargo handling operators, and public transport drivers.

C. Airports and Airport Facilities

In support of the growing logistics industry, the Government invested in the development of two major airports in the region. The Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) boosts Clark's bid to become a world-class logistics and services center in the Asia Pacific Region. The DMIA has since recorded a massive increase in passenger traffic from 7,880 passengers in 44 international flights in 2003 to a whopping 560,000 passengers in the 569 international and 560 local flights in 2009.

With a capacity of 13 million passengers per year, the P792-million NAIA International Passenger Terminal 3 Expansion Project will relieve the crowding of the old NAIA and Centennial terminals. As of 2009, the NAIA Terminal 3 already serves approximately 170 domestic and international flights with 16,500 passengers daily.

D. Railways and Commuter Trains

For the benefit of commuters in and around the ULB, the Government, in partnership with the private sector, invested in eight railway and commuter train projects.

The LRT Line 1 Capacity Expansion Project, for instance, not only upgraded the railway's operation equipment, but also provided an additional 12 air-conditioned four-car trains. It can now transport 40,000 passengers an hour from north to south of Metro Manila from just 27,000 passengers previously. Completed in 2004, the LRT Line 2 Project has made the University Belt area accessible to thousands of students coming from all over Metro Manila. For commuter convenience and safety, the LRT Line 1 North Extension or Closing the Loop Project provides seamless travel to around 530,000 passengers coming from the LRT Monumento station to the MRT North EDSA station daily.

For a faster, more reliable means of transport around the region, the Government is investing in the Northrail Project, which is expected to cut travel time from Caloocan to Bulacan by 42 minutes and from Bulacan to Clark by an hour. With the P6.8 billion Northrail-Southrail Linkage Project, passengers coming from Caloocan can reach Calamba, Laguna in just over an hour, compared to more than two hours prior.

E. Power Projects

For uninterrupted growth of the logistics, commercial, and IT centers in the ULB, a stable supply of energy is indispensable. As such, the Government commissioned power plants, namely the 500-MW San Lorenzo Natural Gas Power Plant in Sta. Rita Batangas, 1,271-MW Ilijan Natural Gas Power Plant in Batangas City, 345-MW San Roque Hydroelectric Power Plant in San Manuel, Pangasinan, 355-MW Kalayaan Pump Storage Power Plant II in Kalayaan, Laguna, and the 50-MW APEC Cogen Coal Power Plant in Mabalacat, Pampanga.

Furthermore, the Government and the private sector built the P2-billion 230 kV Concepcion-Clark Power Transmission Project that provides normal power outtake to nearby residential and business areas. More importantly, it has stabilized the supply of electricity in the Clark Economic Zone. The Binan-Sucat 230 kV Transmission Line Project will increase power supply in NCR by 880 MW upon its completion.

III. The Tourism Central Philippines Super Region

The Philippines is a traveler's paradise. The lands that make up the Tourism Central Philippines Super Region – Regions IV-B, V, VI, VII, VIII, and Camiguin and the island of Siargao – are especially blessed with long white beaches, bountiful marine resources, vast forest reserves, and a rich cultural heritage. These unique wonders and the extraordinary warmth and hospitality of the Filipino people have always beckoned voyagers and vacationers from all over the world.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the Philippines received 0.3% of international tourism receipts and 0.5% of foreign tourist arrivals in 2008. In the first half of 2009, despite the global economic slump, the Philippine tourism industry displayed remarkable resilience by posting a 6% growth in tourists in its top 16 destinations even as tourist arrivals fell by 6.7% in the Asia Pacific region and 8.5% globally.

Over recent years, the country's tourism industry has been a major driver for economic growth. In 2007, tourism accounted for 6% of the GDP and, in 2008, employed 3.8 million people or 11% of the 34.53 million employed. The number of tourists has been on the rise, with foreign visitor volume reaching 3.14 million in 2008 from only 1.99 million in 2000. A total of 5.2 million local and foreign tourists visited the country's top destinations in the period of January to September of 2009, a 17% increase from the same period the previous year.

It can be said that the growth and resilience of the tourism industry can be attributed in part to the influx of investments in transport and support infrastructures. Since 2001, the government has been building and upgrading primary transport infrastructures to interconnect the Super Region's islands and make key tourist destinations more readily accessible. Tourism support infrastructures, such as power plants and wastewater treatment facilities, are also being constructed to address the growing needs of the tourism industry and ensure that progress will always be sustainable and not be at the expense of the environment. These projects also aim to harness the potentials of smaller and more remote islands, promote micro, small, and medium enterprises, and spur other job-generating activities. With these developments, the Tourism Central Philippines Super Region is fast becoming the country's premier tourist destination, serving as a major economic stimulus, a generous provider of employment opportunities, and a source of pride for all Filipinos.

A. Airports and Airports Facilities

Because the degree of accessibility plays a vital role in the success of any tourist location, the Government is implementing in the Super Region 42 airport projects worth a total of P27.31 billion. Of these, four airports have been completed, three are currently being constructed, and 35 are being upgraded.

The year 2007 saw the completion of two major airports, the P8.76-billion New Iloilo Airport in June and the P4.07-billion New Bacolod-Silay Airport in July, which significantly improved aviation safety, increased passenger, cargo and flight capacity, and enhanced the Super Region's accessibility. In 2008, the New Iloilo Airport, with state-of-the-art facilities and a 2.5-kilometer runway, served 12,160 flights with a total of 1.07 million passengers, a marked improvement over the 10,509 flights with a total of 695,926 passengers in 2000. Whereas the old Bacolod Airport had only 450,884 passengers in 2000, the New Bacolod-Silay airport accommodated a total of 843,488 passengers in 2008.

In Palawan, the upgrading and rehabilitation of the Busuanga Airport, which is substantially complete as of January 2010, will enable the airport to accommodate larger aircrafts and higher passenger and cargo traffic.

The improvement of the Guiuan Airport in Eastern Samar, which was completed in 2009, will render the province's beautiful beaches and historical sites more accessible and improve the existing socio-economic climate.

The 35 airports that are currently being upgraded include the airports of Marinduque; Culion, Palawan; Legaspi, Albay; Naga Airport in Camarines Sur; Virac, Catanduanes; Antique; Dumaguete; Borongan; Ormoc; and Kalibo, which is being upgraded to international airport standards.

To cut land travel time to the world-famous island of Boracay, the Caticlan Airport is being developed by a private company, the Caticlan International Airport Development Corporation, through a Build-Operate-Transfer scheme.

The three new airports being built are the Bicol International Airport, the Panglao International Airport in Bohol, and the San Vicente Airport in Northern Palawan.

B. Seaports and Facilities

From 2001 to 2009, the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) constructed and/or rehabilitated 108 ports worth a total of P8.76 billion. Of this number, 12 port projects are still ongoing. In addition to the PPA ports, the Government also constructed 145 municipal ports, 107 of which have been completed, costing some P1.23 billion.

The Government also developed the Strong Republic Nautical Highway (SRNH), effectively reducing transportation costs. Some of the completed port projects that make up the Central Nautical Highway of the SRNH are the Cawit Port in Marinduque, Pantao Port Development Project Phase II in Albay, Ubay and Jagna Ports in Bohol, and Maasin Port in Southern Leyte, all of which were completed in 2007. The Siquijor Port, which was completed in the same year, has more than doubled the number of tourists to Siquijor, Siquijor and increased the number of registered businesses. The expansion of the Tubigon Port, which was completed in 2006, improved the link between Bohol and Cebu. The port now services 15 trips daily to Cebu. In the second semester of 2008, the completion of the RoRo Ports of Maripipi, Naval, and Aroroy improved the connection between the neighboring provinces of Masbate, Biliran, and Leyte. During the same year, the Mambajao Port in Camiguin was also completed, enabling tourists to reach Camiguin via Jagna in just four hours when previously it took 12 hours. In 2009, three major port projects were completed in Masbate: the P136-million Claveria Port Improvement, the Cawayan Port Improvement, and the San Pascual Port Development.

C. Roads and Bridges

From 2001 to 2009, the government spent P54.14 billion to construct, improve, and rehabilitate a total of 8,783.07 kms of roads and 18,741 lms of bridges, which is more than twice the 4,172.72 kms built by the last three administrations.

Among the priority infrastructure road projects completed in the Super Region are the P2.2-billion Bohol Circumferential Road, which improves access to lesser-known tourist sites in Bohol, and the P145-million New Bacolod (Silay) Airport Access Road, which provides a safe and easy route to the new airport.

Other ongoing priority projects in the Super Region that aim to propel economic growth by improving road connectivity are the Cebu North Coastal Road, Esperanza-Aroroy Road, Panay Island Road, and El Nido-Bataraza-Rio Tuba Road which is regarded as Palawan's backbone road.

In Samar, notable projects include the construction of the Laoang-Lapinig-Arteche-San Policarpio Road or Samar Pacific Coastal Road, the rehabilitation of the Maharlika Highway, and the construction of the San Isidro-Lope de Vega Road which improves access to three tourism destinations: the Busay, Ugsad, and Pangasilian Falls.

D. Railway Systems

In order to link the tourism heartland to the country's industrial centers, the Philippine National Railways is rushing the design and reconstruction works for the P52.44-billion Southrail Project, which will connect the Tourism Central Philippines Super Region to the Urban Luzon Beltway. This undertaking covers the 422.6-kilometer Manila-Legaspi line and the additional 112-kilometer line from Legaspi to Sorsogon.

E. Power Support Infrastructures and Facilities

To address the increasing energy requirements of a rapidly growing tourism hub, the Government commissioned five power plants in the Super Region. These are the 20-MW Bunker Fuel in La Paz, Iloilo, 12.5-MW Bunker Fuel in Nabas, Aklan, 5-MW Bunker Fuel in New Washington, Aklan (all completed in 2006), 49-MW Northern Negros Geothermal Power Plant in Bago City, Northern Negros, completed in 2007, and the 3-MW Sevilla Hydroelectric Power Plant in Bohol, completed in 2008.

The Government also created an integrated ethanol distillery and power cogeneration plant with the completion in 2008 of the San Carlos Bioenergy Project in Oriental Negros, and undertook the Bicol Emergency Power Restoration Project to restore facilities and equipment damaged by typhoons Reming and Milenyo.

Other ongoing power projects include the Nasulo Geothermal Project in Oriental Negros, Cebu 200-MW Coal-Fired Power Plant in Naga, Negros-Panay Interconnection Uprating Project, a P1.4-billion Power Plant in Masbate, Panay Diesel Power Plant in Iloilo, Wright-Calbayog 138 Kilovolts Transmission Line Project, and Tamlang Valley Ethanol Project in Negros Oriental.

In Boracay, the Philippine Tourism Authority and the Manila Water Company entered into a Joint Venture Agreement in 2009 to develop, operate, and maintain water and sewerage facilities for the island. This project is expected to provide 100% of water supply coverage by 2014 and 100% of sewer coverage by 2018.

IV. The Agribusiness Mindanao Super Region

Situated in the southernmost region of the Philippine archipelago, Mindanao is an ideal location for agribusiness activities because of its fertile lands, river systems, and an evenly distributed climate that allows for year-round crop production.

The Agribusiness Mindanao Super Region, which is composed of Regions IX, X except Camiguin, XI, XII, Caraga, and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, currently produces almost 100% of rubber and pineapple and 50% of coconut, three of the country's chief agricultural commodities. The Super Region is indispensable not only in ensuring food security as the Philippines' food basket, but also in spurring economic productivity, as it houses a number of big companies that produce high value crops and mariculture products for both local and global markets.

However, despite its tremendous growth potential, Mindanao is still home to the country's poorest provinces. Because of this, the region is rendered highly vulnerable to conflicts and unrest that further impede development. This is why the adoption of a Super Region strategy augurs well for Mindanao. By harnessing its competitive advantage in agribusiness, the obstacles to progress are overcome and the causes of conflict weakened.

Of course, agricultural productivity must be supported by an efficient system of transportation and distribution of goods to achieve significant gains. To this end, the government implemented various infrastructure projects that link farmers to their consumers. These projects boost the agribusiness industry, enabling it to serve as an engine of growth and a means of sustaining peace in the nation's southernmost island.

A. Roads and Bridges

From 2001 to 2009, the government spent P51.68 billion to construct and/or improve 6,557.47 kms of roads and 37,734.23 lineal meters (lms) of bridges in Mindanao. This created a reliable network that allowed for the unimpeded movement of goods from production areas to processing plants and, eventually, to markets and distribution points.

Under the FIELDS Program, which contains provisions for irrigation, Farm-to-Market Roads (FMRs), and other support infrastructure, about P8.96 billion was spent to construct and rehabilitate 4,427.62 kms of FMRs, significantly improving the accessibility of farms and reducing the cost of transporting agricultural goods. These roads also serve as solar dryers.

Among the major infrastructure projects in Mindanao is the P2.1 billion Diosdado Macapagal Bridge in Butuan City, which serves as an alternate, all-weather, and transport-efficient link across the Agusan River. Completed in 2007, this state-of-the-art bridge is a product of earthquake-proof Japanese technology.

Other projects that will improve access to many of the region's municipalities is the opening and construction of the 10.82-km. long portion of the Hawilian-Salug-Sinakungan Road in Agusan del Sur and the opening and improvement of the Kapalong-Talaingod, Davao del Norte-Valencia, Bukidnon Road

Three significant road improvement projects will have been completed by June 2010. The Dinagat Island Road Network will provide accessibility to the island's remote towns, thereby ensuring the continuous delivery of Dinagat's agricultural products to major markets in Surigao del Norte. The Surigao-Davao Coastal Road will sustain the mining and agricultural industry in the region and will reduce by half, from 8 hours to 4, the travel time from Surigao del Sur to the port of Davao. By improving access to the "Triple S-B" municipalities (Sibuco, Siraway, Siocon, and Baliguian), the Zamboanga West Coast Road will help bring progress, peace, and a better quality of life to the people of Zamboanga Peninsula's least developed areas.

Other ongoing major road improvement projects in the Super Region include the Junction Awang-Upi-Lebak-Maguindanao Road traversing Shariff Kabunsuan, Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat, the Iligan City Circumferential Road, and the Dapitan-Dakak City Road, which serves as the main access road to the world-renowned Dakak Beach Resort.

B. Seaports and Roro

From 2001 to 2009, five seaports and one RoRo port were constructed and 33 others were upgraded, including 10 RoRo ports amounting to about P5.44 billion, to provide a faster, more efficient alternative means of transportation in the Mindanao Super Region.

The Cagayan de Oro Port Expansion Project in Misamis Oriental was completed in January 2009 to decongest cargo operations in the port by creating additional berthing space. Among the port's users is multinational Del Monte Corporation.

Another notable project is the expansion of Davao Port, completed in December 2008, which enabled the southern part of the Mindanao Super Region to more easily bring their goods to the markets.

C. Airports and Airports Facilities

In a span of eight years, the Government was also able to upgrade and improve 21 existing airports worth a total of P26.89 billion.

The P6.4-billion Davao International Airport in Davao City was upgraded and expanded in 2003 to provide a safe and reliable mode of transportation that meets international standards. It is considered a vital link in the agribusiness transport network and is being used to transport highly perishable commodities such as aquaculture products and cut flowers.

Currently, a new airport is being constructed in Misamis Oriental. Targeted for completion in January 2012, the Laguindingan Airport will support growth in the Cagayan de Oro-Iligan Corridor.

D. Power Systems

Two major alternative power plants were commissioned to ensure a stable power supply that will support the growth of Mindanao's industries. These helped increase the island's power generating capacity from 7,087,721 MWh in 2004 to 7,971,756 MWh in 2008. In 2006, the P16.27-billion 210-megawatt Clean Coal-Fired Power Plant started its commercial operations. Aside from increasing Mindanao's systems reserve, the plant also helped reduce the region's dependence on the more environmentally straining oil-based power plants. The following year, the completion of the 1-megawatt Solar Power Plant in Cagayan de Oro demonstrated another move towards greener energy sources. This power plant is 100% emission-free and has no identified threat to public health.

Another project that is envisioned to help stabilize the power supply particularly in the Davao area is the P8.01-billion Abaga-Kirahon-Maramag-Bunawan 230 kV Transmission Line Project, which is slated for completion by September of 2011.

E. The FIELDS Program

The FIELDS Program significantly boosted agribusiness in Mindanao by cultivating resources and enhancing the supply chain of goods, and supporting these with research and development.

Apart from the construction and rehabilitation of FMRs, 43,224 hectares of farmlands were provided irrigation while 315,756 hectares were restored and/or rehabilitated from 2001 to 2009 under this program, boosting productivity and creating year-long farming jobs for the people of Mindanao.

FIELDS also included provisions for the installation of dryers and other post-harvest facilities to reduce post-harvest losses.

V. Moving Forward

The massive investments that went into transportation infrastructure development, for land, sea, and air travel, has improved by leaps and bounds the accessibility of the Philippines' many islands in the last nine years. Now, traveling around the country has become faster, cheaper, and safer. These same investments reduced the market prices of goods, promoted domestic and foreign tourism, stimulated trade and commerce, and provided a multitude of employment opportunities.

The adoption of the Super Regions Strategy, which offered a more focused development program to cater to the unique strengths of each region, facilitated the delivery of these gains. By zeroing in on the competitive advantage of each Super Region, the most relevant investments were made and the specific needs of their populations were addressed.

Though much remains to be done to complete the modernization of the Philippine transportation system, there is little doubt that the Government has done much in the last nine years to move our transportation system to that direction. One can say that the foundation for further advancement has been decisively strengthened. Much of it has already been put in place. The challenge remaining in front of us is to build upon the huge programs that have already been successfully completed or initiated and move forward and bring progress throughout the national archipelago.