If the current Bicol infrastructure boom is any indication, President Rodrigo Duterte’s promise of development outside of Imperial Manila is certainly being fulfilled.
The Mindanawon Mayor’s Promise
When then-Mayor Duterte was running for President, a prevailing sentiment was that finally, a probinsyano was up for the task. And surely, he would care. Who better to notice the neglect the islands have suffered for many decades, than a revered local leader like Duterte? New infrastructure, housing projects, commercial developments – they have long remained within or around the Greater Manila Area.
Even some of the richest provinces – Cebu, Davao, etc. – it seems few outside of the people who call those places home have invested in their development. For so long, three quarters of the nation’s population have been running after crumbs falling from the edge of Imperial Manila’s table. It was time to end that. The Golden Age of Infrastructure has begun.
Proof of Concept: Bicol
Enter Bicol infrastructure – with just over half of Duterte’s term finished, the region is proof that the probinsyano President has not forgotten about the probinsyas.
It did not happen overnight. In 2018, Bicol was heralded as the fastest-growing region in the Philippines. The local economy surged with a ridiculous 8.9% growth, nearly doubling its 2017 performance. A big chunk of this growth was attributed to the services sector, claiming a 57.5% share. Even Bicol’s oft-challenged agricultural sector saw an uptick in performance.
But what really drove up investor confidence in Bicol was a 70% increase in government construction for the said year. These included “widening of roads and bridges along the Maharlika Highway, Catanduanes Circumferential Road, Albay-Camarines Sur Diversion Road, Bacon-Manito Road, and four other road projects.”
The private sector would not be left behind, with a 36.9% spike in their own construction projects. This included shopping centers and hotels such as new SM malls in Legazpi and Daet, as well as the Oriental Hotel Albay and Morison Hotel.
As of writing, the much-awaited Bicol International Airport is over 70% completed. The Department of Transportation is targeting a July opening to what people are calling the country’s “Most Scenic Gateway” which will welcome visitors with no less than a close-up aerial view of Mount Mayon.
Connecting South Luzon
Finally, perhaps the biggest news on Bicol infrastructure goes beyond the region. The Philippine National Railways (PNR) South Haul project is set to break ground this year. This line will connect Metro Manila to Sorsogon. Tracks will traverse the provinces of Laguna, Batangas, Quezon, Camarines Sur, and Albay prior to reaching Matnog.
“Finally, the PNR South Railways project, tediously designed as a key to unlock economic potentials of the vast Southern Tagalog and Bicol areas, will soon be a reality,” said Albay Rep. Joey Salceda.
That’s walking the talk for you. From the fields of Central Luzon to the mountains of Mindanao, we are building this country round-the-clock. If you listen hard enough on a quiet day, you can turn your ear to any direction. You might just hear the faint slamming of concrete and pounding of steel.
“Build, Build, Build,” the Mayor promised, and the people agreed.