PARANAS, Samar – Former president and outgoing House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo paid a brief visit to this town, one of the areas that benefitted the US-funded Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC) that started during her administration.
And during her June 14 visit to this town, the House Speaker listened among members of various peoples’ organizations (POs) how their lives were changed after the construction of the MCC road in their area.
Among them are PO’s whose members are all male and former engaging to illegal logging but are now into tour guiding, the Ulot Extreme Torpedo Boat Ride.
Eugene Igdalino, who is the president of the Ulot Extreme Torpedo Boat Ride, told the former President that before the road was constructed, he along with other men were into illegal logging.
But with an improved road network, they were able to change for the better as they became tour guides as tourists were coming in to Paranas in droves.
The extreme boat ride is among the top tourist attractions of Paranas.
Igdalino told Arroyo that as tour guides, they are assured of a steady and legal income. Just last year, their organization generated tourist receipt of about P2.4 million.
Igdalino added that aside from the Torpedo boat ride, they are also developing an eco-trail which will be supervised by women’s group that could augment the income of their husbands who are doing tour guiding in Ulot River.
For her part, Elizabeth Pangilino, president of the Tenani Association for Women and Development (Tawad), also informed House Speaker Arroyo that because of the road project, they became aware and is helping the government in curbing the problem on trafficking on their area.
Lack of opportunities and being remote then made some of the villagers immune to getting trafficked, she said.
But with a new road, not only their village became connected to the rest of Paranas but also they became aware how to fight those who are engaging in human trafficking.
Pangilino added that another big contribution of the MCC road project to the community is the efficient delivery of their farm products and they were able to send their children to college.
Hearing this positive feedback, Arroyo said that she is thankful that the project under her term really benefited the poor communities.
“I am so happy to be here this afternoon because you told me how it helped you and that is one of the happiest things I’ve ever heard,” Arroyo said.
“Thank you very much for this wonderful opportunity for me to interact (with you). I hope that tourism will continue to grow and help for you to develop sustainably and to help in addressing poverty in Samar Island and in the whole Philippines,” she added.
The 222-kilometer Secondary National Roads Development Project (SNRDP) was funded by the MCC for $214.4-million which was started during the term of Arroyo.
The project was composed of four contract packages that start in the Pan Philippine Highway along the junction in Barangay Buray, Paranas, going to Taft and end in Guiuan town, both in Eastern Samar.
The project started in 2009 and was finished in 2013.