MANILA, JUNE 29, 2007 (STAR) By Marvin Sy - Social programs and infrastructure development will be the highlight of President Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) next month.

Secretary to the Cabinet Ricardo Saludo said the SONA is being finalized for the opening of the 14th Congress on July 23.

Secretary Cerge Remonde of the Presidential Management Staff said there are 21 priority road and bridge projects worth around P97 billion set for completion in 2010, the last year of Mrs. Arroyo’s term.

The government is working on 20 priority road projects and one major bridge project costing P96.688 billion nationwide. The projects are expected to be completed by 2010, as committed by the President in her SONA last year.

The projects involve the development of nine new road networks and the rehabilitation, expansion or improvement of 11 others.

Remonde noted that the 21 road and bridge projects will add to the existing 20,568 kilometers of paved national roads.

For this year alone, four major road projects are set to be completed, namely, the rehabilitation of EDSA, Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway Project, the Dinagat Island Road, and the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR) 2 from Lipa City to Batangas City.

The government is also expecting the completion of two components of the Surigao-Davao Coastal Road, namely the Bacuag-Claver and Manay-Mati Sections.

A 59-kilometer stretch of the El Nido-Bataraza-Rio Tuba Road was completed on March 28.

Three other road projects will be completed before the end of 2008, namely the Daang-Hari SLEX Link, the South Luzon Expressway Extension Project, and the Tarlac-Dingalan Road.

Nine more projects will be inaugurated by 2009 namely the Bontok-Tabuk-Tuguegarao Road, Halsema Highway, C-5 Expressway (NLEX-SLEX Link), Cavite-Laguna (CALA) North-South Road, Marikina-Infanta Road, and other sections of the El Nido-Bataraza-Rio Tuba Road, Dapitan City-Dakak Road, the Lebak Maguindanao Road Project, and the Sibuco-Siraway-Siocon-Baliguian-Gutalac Road.

Four projects are set to be completed by 2010 namely the C6 Lakeshore Expressway, the North Luzon East Expressway, the Manila-Cavite Toll Expressway Project or the R-1 Expressway Extension, and the remaining sections of the Surigao-Davao Coastal Road.

The government is also in the process of completing eight priority railway projects worth $4.23 billion or roughly P203 billion aimed at inter-connecting the mass transport lines of Metro Manila and improving access to the Luzon provinces.

In line with government efforts to address the problem of hunger and poverty, around P27.5 billion worth of priority irrigation projects nationwide were also lined up to enhance farm production and increase market goods supply.

Remonde noted that the President has targeted four major irrigation projects costing P21.49 billion and several small irrigation projects worth P6 billion to spur the country’s agricultural productivity, increase food production and allow the export of goods such as vegetables and other high value crops.

The four irrigation projects will benefit more than 92,000 farm families and increase palay production by 552,478 metric tons per year or 359,111 metric tons of rice annually.

Remonde said that P1.5 billion initially has been released to the National Irrigation Administration. The fund is expected to increase rice production to 859,053 metric tons per year.

Remonde said that small irrigation projects would be completed by 2013.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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