MANILA, Philippines - With his term nearing its end, President Benigno Aquino III used his inaguration speech for the Basilan Circumferential Road to highlight his administration’s legacy over the island province scarred by rebel influence.
Plagued by the threat of rebel attacks, the construction was delayed for over 16 years until it was completed this 2016.
“Taong 2000 po nang sinimulang ipagawa ang kalsadang ito, pero matagal nabinbin dahil sa kaguluhan sa inyong lalawigan at iba pang mga kadahilanan (It was in the year 2000 when we started work for this road, but it was delayed because of the conflict in this province and other reasons),” explained Aquino in his speech delivered last Monday, March 21.
"Sadya raw pong hinahadlangan ng mga rebeldeng grupo ang proyektong ito. Bukod kasi sa mas hihirap ang pagtakas sa batas, hihina ang kanilang impluwensya dahil nararamdaman na ng ating mga Boss ang tunay na kalinga ng Estado (Rebel groups have allegedly hindered the project's completion. It will not only make it harder for them to escape from the rule of law but will weaken their influence, because my Bosses will feel the state's genuine care)," he added.
Using an employee-employer metaphor, Aquino has repeatedly called the Filipino masses who voted for him into office his so-called bosses.
On Sunday night, March 20, two bombs exploded in Sumisip, Basilan – one of which exploded some 50 meters away from inauguration’s venue in Tumahubong village, reported Inquirer.net.
The Inquirer report also said Aquino had tight security during the event, with over 400 policemen deployed, 6 armored vehicles and air and ground troops on stand by.
The BCR, stretching close to 132 kilometers, would pass through Isabela City and Lamitan City, as well as the municipalities of Al-Barka, Tipo-Tipo, Ungkaya Pukan, Sumisip, Maluso and Lantawan. It cost over P1.83 billion.
Similar to his previous speeches addressing the nation, the president noted what he regards as a stark difference between the performance of his administration and that of his predecessor, the now criminally indicted Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
He said his administration allotted 13 billion more during the years 2011 to 2016 than what Arroyo allotted from 2005 to 2010 for infrastructure projects including roads, bridges, and flood control structures in Basilan, a chronically poor area in Southern Philippines.
Arroyo now faces plunder charges before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan over alleged misuse of intelligence funds from the state charity sweepstakes office.
Aquino linked the achievements of his administration to the flag bearers of the Liberal Party (LP), Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Congresswoman Leni Robredo.
Roxas and Robredo are running mates as presidential and vice presidential candidates respectively for the 2016 polls, riding on a slogan of continuity for the strides made by an LP administration.
“Sa akin po, kung ang tanong ay sino ang may kakayahan, karanasan, at may konsensya, at walang kaduda-dudang itutuloy ang ating mga tagumpay: Yan po ang Tambalang Matuwid na sina Mar Roxas at Leni Robredo (For me, if the question is who has the ability, experience, conscience, and doubtless will to continue our success, that is the tandem of Daang Matuwid (Straight Path) consisting of Mar Roxas and Leni Robredo),” said Aquino.
According to a 2016 voters profile by the election commission, Basilan has over 167, 600 registered voters.
In a Pulse Asia Survey conducted from March 1 to 6, Mindanao support for the Liberal Party flag bearers are lagging behind, with Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Senator Alan Peter Cayetano leading at 47% and 25% respectively. The said survey was commissioned by ABS-CBN Corporation.
Photo accessed from the Official Gazette.