Footbridge near ‘SAF 44’ killing scene done by Aug PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 03 July 2015 13:49

By FELIX OSTREA

 

Ethnic Maguindanaon couple Mundas and Halima are excited with thoughts of crossing the Tukanalipao River to deliver farm products to the market even during rainy days once the safer and more durable footbridge project connecting both banks of the waterway is accomplished.

The arterial facility is being built near the iconic bullet-riddled timber footbridge several meters away from one of the three sites of the January 25 encounter between members of the police’s elite Special Action Force (SAF) and Moro rebels in Mamasapano town in the second district of Maguindanao.

The project is one of more than a dozen that were immediately started after the now infamous “Mamasapano incident” by Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and officials of the ARMM’s Department of Public Works and Highways to hasten the restoration of normalcy in Mamasapano.

The 36-year-old Mundas, a corn and vegetable farmer, said he and members of his family can conveniently deliver their harvests to buyers in the center of Barangay Tukanalipao and to the markets in the adjoining Mamasapano and Shariff Aguak towns even during rainy days once the footbridge is completely done.

“Crossing the old, very unsafe wooden bridge at nighttime and during the rainy days was always dangerous. There were times we balked from crossing the river for fear of accidents and our harvests got spoiled,” Mundas said in the Maguindanaon vernacular.

ARMM Regional Public Works Secretary Don Mustapha Loong and James Mlok, chief of Maguindanao’s 2nd District Engineering Office, are both optimistic the multi-million footbridge and the farm-to-market road connecting it to a municipal highway straddling through Barangay Tukanalipao can be opened to public use before August this year.

Loong, a Tausog from Sulu, and Mlok, who is an ethnic Maguindanaon, are jointly supervising the on-going projects of the Hataman administration in Mamasapano.

The first to be accomplished from among the projects, about P60 million in total cost, was the Tukanalipao mosque, constructed multilaterally by the ARMM government, unarmed engineering teams from the Army’s 6th Infantry Division and local folks.

“The implementation of these projects are open to scrutiny by the media and interested civil society organizations,” Loong, an engineer by profession, said Thursday.

Barangay officials have actively been helping construct the footbridge and an 890-meter farm-to-market road connecting the facility to the barangay proper.

“We are thankful to these villagers,” Mlok said.

Esmael Hashim, a respected elder in Barangay Tukanalipao, said the ARMM’s road and footbridge projects will improve the productivity of farmers in agricultural enclaves affected by the January 25 SAF-rebel encounter in three areas in Mamasapano.

The incident displaced thousands, whose lives were made miserable by a subsequent four-month stay in evacuation sites during the February 28 to April 3 face-off in the province between the military and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a consequence of the hostilities that left 44 SAF operatives, 17 Moro rebels and five innocent villagers dead.

The deaths of the 44 policemen, most known now in moniker “SAF 44,” shook the nation to its core and challenged the now 18-year peace overture between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and national government.

“We are glad to see these projects rising. These will usher in improvements in the security landscape of Barangay Tukanalipao,” Hashim said in Filipino.

Mlok said they expect to accomplish the footbridge project by end of July, or even sooner.

Mlok said they did not suspend the construction of the footbridge despite the observance by workers of the month-long Islamic Ramadhan fasting season, which started last June 18.

Muslims fast from dawn to dusk during the season, where they focus on acts of reconciliation, piety and reparation for wrongdoings.