President Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered Acting Public Works Secretary Victor Domingo to work hard at providing the basic needs of the people in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and other kidnap-prone areas to stamp out the problem of kidnappings in Southern Philippines.
In an interview, Domingo said the President wants major roads, highways and bridges leading to ARMM completed soon so as to provide "peace dividends" and prevent more high-profile criminal incidents like the kidnapping of Irish missionary Father Michael Sinnott from happening.
"By completing key highways and farm-to-market roads, we can prevent kidnappings and at the same time boost tourism and development in the problematic areas of Mindanao. Infrastructures will bring in peace dividends and more importantly, it will close the gap of misunderstanding between Christians and Muslims there," Domingo said.
The newly-appointed DPWH secretary said he had already ordered Senior Undersecretary Manuel Bonoan, DPWH Central Mindanao Regional Director Sinaolan Macarambon and North Cotabato District Engineer Eddie M. Amir to keep track of the President's mandate.
Domingo said the President specifically ordered the immediate completion of the paving works on the 41-kilometer Banisilan-Guiling-Alamada road that would connect North Cotabato and the province of Lanao del Sur.
Macarambon said that only about three kilometers of the road – the Banisilan-Gustav road section – remains unpaved.
Macarambon said they are rushing work as well on the P2-Billion Awang-Upi-Lebak-Kalamansig Junction in Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao province. The project is now 60 percent complete.
Apart from infrastructure projects, Domingo said the President also wants ARMM areas to have ample supply of water and other basic necessities.
"Of course, the other needs of the people in ARMM are the lack of water supply in many municipalities where there are no water systems," he said, adding that the President had ordered Prospero Pichay, head of the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), to look into the matter.
Asked when the President wants these projects completed, Domingo replied: "Well, the President told me to finish these projects before the end of her term or have them off and running by then."
The 79-year-old Sinnott was abducted last October 11 at the Missionary Society of St. Columban compound in Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur. Police authorities say his kidnappers are believed to be operating in Central Mindanao where he is reportedly being kept as of press time.
There is also a high incidence of kidnap-for-ransom activities in other ARMM areas, including Basilan and Sulu.