FEATURE: Apayao road, a direct link to Ilocos Norte

By Jerome Agaloos

The Yappayaos use to express their doubt: “It is impossible for lower and upper Apayao to be connected by a road, more so, Apayao to be directly linked to Ilocos Norte.” Today, they can say: “Apayao’s aspiration for a better road network will be realized.”

At present, travel from the capital town of Kabugao to lower Apayao (Pudtol, Luna, Flora and Santa Marcela) is through Cagayan province, a circuitous 200 km route via Maharlika Highway. It is a grueling five-hour trip, even with the new 360-linear meter Ninoy Aquino Bridge across the Chico River in Tuao, Cagayan.

For now, the 79-km Kabugao-Pudtol-Luna-Cagayan Boundary Road is not totally open to vehicular traffic. As per target by DPWH-CAR, the 36-linear meter (lm) bridge in Paco Valley in Kabugao will be completed by early 2015, and the whole road stretch will be concreted by the end of 2015.

Along the Pudtol section of the road, two major bridges namely the Bubulayan and Maton bridges had been completed in 2012. The construction of Nagan Bridge, which is being implemented by DPWH central office, is ongoing while the replacement of the 60-lm Malilibag Bailey Bridge into permanent structure is being proposed for next year’s implementation.

Apayao’s direct link to Ilocos Norte is the 64-km Kabugao, Apayao – Solsona, Ilocos Norte Arterial Road. The road was an abandoned logging road during the Marcos era and bulk of the work is road opening and gravelling.

The 37-km Kabugao portion of the road starts at Cabetian junction in Poblacion up to Barangay Igawe then it connects to Barangay Namaltugan in Calanasan. The 26-km Calanasan portion, from Barangay Namaltugan to Barangay Butao/regional boundary, is expected to be passable via Solsona, Ilocos Norte by end-2014, though gravel surface. At the regional boundary, the road traverses the highest peak in Calanasan, Mt. Kilang, which offers a beautifully landscaped marble view. Mt. Kilang is a sanctuary of the Philippine eagle and other bird species.

Since the road classification upgrading from secondary road to arterial primary road in 2011, a 55-km stretch was opened and widened. This included the concreting of a 3-km road in Kabugao along Cabetian and Malabanig sections. However, there is a need to construct 11 bridges, four minor bridges totaling to 120-lm in Calanasan and seven major bridges totaling to 445-lm in Kabugao. Among the longest of these bridges would be a 120-lm across the Sicapo River, an 80-lm bridge across the Madduang River and another 120-lm bridge across the Tabbayagan River, all tributaries of the Apayao River.

It is interesting to note that the 80-km Ilocos Norte side from San Nicolas Junction to Solsona, concreting is almost complete with only six kilo-meters leading to the regional boundary.

It will be remembered that in August 5, 2011, the Cordillera Regional Development Council (RDC-CAR) had a dialogue with DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson which resulted to the good secretary’s issuance in November 2, 2011 of a memorandum upgrading three roads in Apayao.

During the inauguration of the Ninoy Aquino Bridge in Tuao, Cagayan last August, President Benigno Aquino III announced the allocation of Php 1.3 billion to fund the construction of 11 bridges in Apayao which must be completed before his term ends in 2016.#