Aquino inaugurates 138-km road in Basilan despite 2 blasts
SUMISIP, Basilan – Even if it was a security risk, President Aquino on Monday visited this town to inaugurate a 138-kilometer circumferential road here.
On the eve of the president’s visit, two blasts happened in this town. One was in the village of Cabengbeng, while another was some 50 meters away where Mr. Aquino was to deliver his speech.
A member of the Presidential Security Group, who asked not to be named as he was not authorized to speak on the matter, said another improvised bomb was discovered and detonated.
“If the villagers failed to notice it, there could have been many casualties now,” he said.
The blast in Cabebeng at 9 p.m. Sunday left one civilian wounded. An hour earlier, members of the 64th Infantry Battalion were ambushed in the same village.
At past 9 p.m. Sunday, a bomb exploded in Barangay Tumahubong, near the site where Mr. Aquino was to speak.
Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) dismissed the attacks as perpetrated by lawless elements who wanted to disrupt Monday’s event.
The attacks, however, did not stop residents from feeling excited about the President’s visit.
Jatiya Salasain, a 60-year old Yakan, said waiting for Mr. Aquino for two hours was nothing compared to the number of years that they had been wondering when a president could finally visit their place.
“I am very happy to see him. Finally, I saw a President coming down. The last time was in 1957, it was Ramon Magsaysay in Isabela (now a city), and I was very young then,” Salasain said.
Zaida Kiram, a nurse at the Sumisip Health Center, said it was her first time to see the president in the flesh.
“Everyone here is very excited,” she said.
Mr. Aquino arrived here minutes before noon. With Hataman and public works and highways Secretary Rogelio Singson, the President had a brief drive through to the road project.
More than 400 policemen were deployed for the president’s visit, while around six armored vehicles were also stationed in areas considered vulnerable to attacks by rebels and bandits. Air and ground troops were also on stand by.
Rep. Jim Hataman Saliman said almost P3-billion of “local and national public works funds” were spent to complete the road network.
Governor Hataman said it was an honor that the President visited “the place where I grew up and where transportation was a dangerous challenge for everyone.”
Wahida Ajijul, a 6th grader, shared how her older siblings sacrificed just to go to school, “leaving home early in the morning, and coming back late.”
“There were a few vehicles then. Now with the road network, I see more jeepneys, more tricycles and more motorbikes. The road network will help us finish our education with better grades. No more absences,” Ajijul said.
Hataman said that in his younger years, it took him four to six hours to travel from Sumisip town to Isabela.
“Now it only takes 45 minutes,” he said.
Hataman said construction of the 138-kilometer road, which started in 2010, was delayed because workers were being threatened and attacked by lawless elements. SFM
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