By Joseph B.A. Marzan
The repair of the Oyungan and Paliwan bridges in Panay Island’s southwestern part is crucial to the province of Antique’s return to a sense of normalcy, the province’s governor highlighted.
Antique Governor Rhodora Cadiao told Daily Guardian in a phone interview on Thursday that with the destruction of the Paliwan Bridge, people have been riding makeshift boats and crossing makeshift bridges.
The bridge straddles its namesake river and is the only bridge connecting the Antique towns of Laua-an in the river’s north, and Bugasong to its south.
Without the bridge, people from northern Antique, from Laua-an to Libertad towns, would have to travel up to 5 hours via Aklan and Capiz to reach Iloilo City, as suggested by the Department of Public Works and Highways-Region 6 (DPWH-6).
The already dire situation is worsened by the partial damage to Oyungan Bridge in Miagao, Iloilo, which is the only major connection from the city and province of Iloilo to southern Antique via the Iloilo town of San Joaquin.
Alternative routes suggested by the DPWH-6 within Miagao town start from Potrido-San Fernando roads, which connect to either the Oyungan-Igcabidio-Narorogan-Igsoligue roads or the Potrido-Igdulaca-San Fernando-Igbugo-Igsoligue-Igdulaca-Lacadon-San Rafael roads.
Cadiao emphasized that while these bridges have remained damaged, things are not expected to get back to normal any time soon.
“Until vehicles cannot pass through there, in the north in Paliwan, in the south is Oyungan, there will never be normalcy here. Although the people can walk through makeshift bridges, there is no normalcy at the moment,” Cadiao said.
The governor noted that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has earmarked P350 million for the Paliwan bridge replacement, something she calls “long overdue” citing the regular retrofitting activities by the national government on the 48-year-old bridge which cost P115 million almost annually.
This commitment was already sealed prior to the president’s visit to the province earlier this week.
Aside from this, P178 million from the national government was also committed to assisting the province’s farmers, with another P7 million to be used by the Provincial Veterinary Office.
Marcos Jr. this week also led the awarding of around P200 million in sari-sari store packages to affected families through the Department of Trade and Industry.
As to the delivery of goods and fuel from Iloilo, Cadiao stated that three barges have been traveling on a weekly basis to and from the neighboring province, with a fourth barge set to be requested due to demand from the local business sector.
This has helped stabilize the short-lived fuel situation in the capital town of San Jose, but this too comes with challenges, particularly government documentation prior to traveling.
“You have to secure from MARINA [and] from the Philippine Coast Guard, so when [the barges] are available and need to get the supplies [from Iloilo], that’s the time we need to request for it to set sail. But they don’t sail every day,” the governor explained.
Daily Guardian has reached out to the DPWH-6 for the damage costs to the Paliwan and Oyungan bridges, as well as the needed costs to repair them, but they have not responded as of this writing.