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GMA visits US-funded Samar road project she started during her term

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PARANAS, Samar — Former president and outgoing House of Representatives Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Friday visited the 212-km. road project in Samar that was funded by the US government during her term.

With just two weeks left before stepping down as House Speaker, Arroyo said she wants to see how the road project changed the lives of impoverished families in Samar.

“We pushed for this project since Samar is one of the poorest provinces in the country. We believe that through good strategic infrastructure, people’s lives would improve,” she told reporters.

Eugene Igdalino, president of a group of boatmen and tour guides in Ulot River here, said that with the good road network, more tourists have been visiting their place to explore Samar Island’s longest river.

“From an annual income of P10,000 when we started nine years ago, our earnings from tourism went up to P2.4 million in 2018. Our income has increased significantly after the road was upgraded,” Igdalino said.

Started in 2012 and completed in 2016, the $214.4-million grant for road project was aimed at rehabilitating existing roads and bridges in Samar to reduce transportation costs and improve access to markets and social services for an estimated 290,000 residents.

The roads pass through 15 towns in Samar and Eastern Samar, two of the poorest provinces in the Philippines.

“You told me how the project helped you. I am so happy to be here in my last two weeks as House Speaker. I’ve been telling people that before I leave my post, I want to visit my favorite projects,” Arroyo added.

The Arroyo administration conceptualized the project in 2006 to fight poverty in Samar province. On Dec. 15, 2009, she signed an executive order establishing the Millennium Challenge Account Philippines, the entity tasked to supervise the project. (PNA)