Guided by the overall framework of linking BLIST with the rest of the Cordilleras through an efficient road system, the status of paved roads in the region improved from 31 percent in 2003 to a little over 34 percent by mid 2007, with the concrete paving of about 80 kilometers of national roads. This resulted in a reduction of travel time by more or less two hours from Baguio City to the northern towns of Benguet and Mountain Province with the rehabilitation of the WB-assisted La Trinidad-Mount Data Road, and to the provinces of Ifugao, Kalinga and Apayao with the substantial completion of the JBIC-assisted Baguio-Aritao Road. Overall, CAR’s complete links increased slightly to 25 percent.
The CAR garnered priority attention under the North Luzon Quadrangle Super Region, where the President had committed to complete three major sections of the Cordillera Roads Improvement Project (Mt. Data-Bontoc, Bontoc-Banaue, Bontoc-Lubuagan sections) by 2010.
Despite these gains, CAR’S national road system is still the poorest in the country. There are still two municipal poblaciones (Pasil and Tinglayan, both in Kalinga) and 214 barangays regionwide that are not yet directly connected with the regional road system.
Unique to CAR, the development of alternative transport facilities was also jump-started with the completion of the Feasibility Study on Apayao River Alternative Transport Project, and the commitment of funds for agricultural tramline projects of DA and DAR under the President’s Super Region strategy.
The Regional Communications System has greatly improved with the increasing widespread usage of cellular mobile technology (CMT). CMT municipal coverage increased from 55 percent in 2003 to 82 percent by the end of 2007. Also, the PLDT recently installed its Digital Fiber Optic Network (DFON) from San Fernando, La Union to Baguio City, in support to the increasing number of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) in the area, a key component of the President’s Cyber-Corridor Strategy.
Internet services also remarkably increased with the availability of broadband DSL and Wifi connections in all provincial capital towns, with the exception of Kabugao, Apayao. Internet services were also established in 54 sites (municipal halls, internet cafes, schools, DOTC TelOf offices) under the government’s Community E-Center (CeC) Project. There are still 26 fifth and sixth class municipalities not yet connected to the World Wide Web.
CAR’s poor transportation and communication infrastructure is due to a number of factors. First, previous policies prior to the creation of CAR focused road development towards the regional urban centers (i.e., San Fernando in Region I and Tuguegarao in Region II) and more populated areas, resulting to very poor road conditions in CAR, which has lower population level and arable lands compared to lowland provinces. Second, infrastructure facilities in CAR are more costly to construct due to the region’s inherently rugged and mountainous terrain, its high rainfall intensities, and high vulnerability to earthquake and typhoon calamities. Finally, such mountainous topography consequently results to numerous right-of-way conflicts as space for infrastructure competes with settlements and farmlands, often times delaying implementation and further increasing project costs.
The Region’s growing importance in the area of eco-tourism, higher education services, mining, and ICT services require the provision of appropriate levels of transport and communication facilities and services. Moreover, the provision of basic facilities allows Cordillerans to move around and communicate with their peers within and outside the region and develop their own resources in line with the region’s struggle toward full autonomy.
Physical Integration aims to directly link together the BLIST, the CAR provincial capital towns, and key growth areas (KGAs are minor urban service centers, major eco-tourist destinations, areas hosting intensive mining and agro-industrial activities) via an efficient and year-round transportation and information and communications network. The Updated RDP 2008-2010 aims to attain the following key targets:
- Development of major CRIP sections, increasing complete links from 25 percent to 46 percent, and paved national roads from 34 percent to 40 percent;
- Provision of ICT infrastructure, resulting to a 100 percent municipal CMT service coverage, 90 percent CMT barangay service coverage, 3-G services provided to all capital towns and KGAs; and improvement of landline services (voice-data-video capability) in all provincial capital towns.
- All provincial capital towns and KGAs served with high-speed and high capacity internet services; provision of CeC in the remaining 26 5th and 6th class LGUs.
To attain the above key targets, the following strategies are adopted:
Facilitate implementation of CRIP and other priority projects. The RDC, in cooperation with DPWH, LGUs and other stakeholders, shall endeavor to facilitate completion of ODA-assisted and SONA committed projects by closely monitoring implementation and helping resolve implementation difficulties especially on social and right-of-way issues. In addition, the financing of critical gaps in the regional network shall be pursued aggressively.
Improve local access in rapidly urbanizing areas. Physical integration in rapidly urbanizing centers shall be addressed through the provision of critical infrastructure projects.
Ensure safety and comfort of riding public and motorists. Long distance travel shall be made safer, more comfortable and pleasing for both motorists and the riding public through the placement of road signs and guides, construction of public toilets, and the inspection/regulation/accreditation of clean terminals/restaurants along national roads.
Develop alternative transport systems (ATS) for critical areas. ATS shall be advocated in areas where the use of traditional road construction and motorized vehicles are technically difficult, environmentally damaging, and costly. Priority projects identified by the Cordillera ATS Master Plan shall be pursued, particularly the Apayao River ATS Project, the agricultural tramline projects of DA and DAR, and priority cable cars for tourism pusposes.
Increase functional & efficient usage of air transport. The continued improvement of the Baguio Airport shall be pursued, particularly the installation of modern instrument landing systems, and the construction of fencing, terminal building and rerouting of local traffic away from the runway. The RDC shall also assist LGUs to work out with DOTC the establishment and operation of airstrips and helipads outside of Baguio in support to business, tourism and disaster preparedness.
Modernize regional communications system. The regional system shall be upgraded to support social and economic development. Franchise carriers will be encouraged to expand and upgrade their landline (voice-data-video capable) and CMT facilities and services (3-G services). Meanwhile, the government, through DOTC, shall continue to provide missionary telecommunications services in unserved and underserved areas. The expansion and upgrading of radio and television broadcast services shall also be pursued to widen their coverage.
Develop ICT infrastructure as alternative means of communication. ICT infrastructure shall be developed by encouraging the establishment of high-speed, high capacity internet services in provincial capitals and key growth areas to support governance, industry as well as social and educational activities.
3.4.4 Priority Programs/Projects
Cordillera Roads Improvement Project (CRIP). The CRIP provides the overall framework for regional arterial road development. As SONA committed, the DPWH shall pursue development of critical CRIP sections as follows: a) Mt. Data-Bontoc Section, b) Bontoc-Banaue Road, c) Bontoc-Tinglayan-Tabuk Road, d) Abra-Kalinga Road, e) Tabuk-Tuao-Kabugao Road. The DPWH and DILG will undertake the construction/rehabilitation of about 25 national and local bridges along critical links.
Development of ICT infrastructure services. CICT and NTC shall provide appropriate policy environment for the private sector to expand and upgrade in urbanizing areas, while DOTC shall provide missionary telecommunications services to underserved rural areas. CeC establishment will be pursued in the remaining 5th-6th class municipalities.
Air Transport Development. The continued improvement of Loakan Airport and the establishment of helipads and rural airstrips in strategically located municipalities shall continue. Also, preparatory work for the establishment of an airport in Tabuk City shall be initiated by the LGU in partnership with the RDC and DOTC-ATO.
Urban Transport Systems Program. This involves the construction of urban transport infrastructure and services in rapidly urbanizing towns (e.g., mass transit systems, fly-overs, circumferential or by-pass roads, pedestrian and traffic control systems).
Implementation of priority ATS projects as identified in the Cordillera ATS Master Plan shall be done. Financing and implementation of the Apayao River ATS Project shall be undertaken before 2010. Likewise, the preparation of feasibility studies for other priority ATS projects shall be pursued.