LA PAZ, Abra—A four-lane concrete highway that will connect the land-locked province of Abra to Ilocos Norte funded by the national government with about P682 million is nearing completion.
This was disclosed by La Paz Mayor JB Bernos whose claim was verified by two newsmen who traveled by car through the new highway from the foothills of this town to the highlands of the town of Danglas at the Ilocos Norte border.
The highway that spanned 32 kilometers from the Calaba bride crossing the Abra River to the end of the development site, snaked through ridges of the western side of the Cordillera mountain ranges and crossed hectares upon hectares of pine-clad forests and giant almazigas close to the border town of Nueva Era, in Ilocos Norte.
“The new highway cost between Php 22 and Php 23 million per kilometer and was funded with the regular allocation of the Department of Public Works and Highways,” Mayor Bernos, its builder, revealed.
The Ilocos Norte side of the same highway was paved way back during the Marcos administration, he said. Funding for the Abra side began coming towards the end of the Arroyo administration.
“It is the most significant highway project in the province of Abra, so far” said Bernos.
“It will open a new gateway from Abra towards the international airport in Laoag and the seaport in Curimao,” the town executive who is also a building contractor, pointed out.
Until the new highway is formally opened to traffic, the only road in and out of Abra is the national highway that exits in Narvacan, Ilocos Sur, 31 kilometers south of Bangued, the capital town.
Another big project, the Abra-Kalinga road, is also being built, but that goes further inland the Cordillera heartland, he added.
The new highway will open opportunities for Abra products like furniture and handicrafts to be shipped to the world. It will also open opportunities for industries like cement factories to build their plants along the limestone mountains that the new highway crosses, Bernos said.
“Maybe, some investors may get interested in building a new mountain resort complex in the middle of the pine forests only an hour or so by car from Laoag City,” he said.
He said the initial funding was released during the Arroyo administration. More than half of the whole stretch involved both road opening and concreting which was difficult and expensive to build especially when a four-lane highway was specified.
Interviewed at the project site where a backhoe and a bulldoser were opening the new road, site engineer, Manuel Beronilla IV, said the funded portion of the highway will be completed by May this year.
To reach the concreted part of the highway in the Ilocos Norte side, there remains a five kilometer stretch that needs to be opened and paved, he said. Formal opening of the road may be next year when another P120 million is expected to be released to finish the whole highway.