A year and seven months after working to refurbish, the Bayabao Bridge was reopened on Saturday, exactly three years when President Rodrigo Duterte declared Marawi City liberated from the influence of the ISIS terrorists.
With an estimated PHP83 million renovation cost, Bayabao Bridge was retaken by government troops on August 31, 2017 after the Daesh-inspired terrorist Maute Group blocked it to prevent government forces from entering and rescuing civilians trapped inside Marawi’s commercial center.
The Bayabao Bridge is often referred to by the military as the Banggolo Bridge because it goes right into the city’s financial district, Banggolo, where the local terror groups strategically holed up.
It was the second of three critical bridges in the Marawi battle zone. Troops first took control of Baloi Bridge — or what troops refer to as Mapandi Bridge — on July 20. 2017.
Engineer Cariyong Hadjimalic, general manager of CDH Construction that contracted the bridge, said they started working on the PHP83-million bridge in March 2019 and finished it in October this year after some revisions to the project plans and a two-month break due to the pandemic.
The bridge was then widened to 3.37 meters on each side, now it is 17 meters wide.
“We did a little rehabilitation. Then we widened it from two lanes, the bridge has now four lanes,” Hadjimalic said.
Thousands of lives were saved by the bridge during the siege in 2017, according to peace adviser Secretary Carlito Galvez, the former commander of the Western Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), in his video message played during the commemoration program inside the former main battle area (MBA), now called by the government as the most affected area (MAA).
He said the bridge is vital in the fight against the terrorist and has become a symbol of the military to carry out its mission.
Galvez said it currently serves a different purpose to the lives of the Marawi residents.
“This bridge does not only connect the people of Marawi physically but on (a) bigger level,” he added.
Col. Jose Maria Cuerpo, commander of the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade who was the deputy brigade commander during the siege, remembered a father who carried a sick 20-year-old son they rescued during the second month of the siege.
“It was on this bridge where we rescued that father and son with 20 other civilians held hostage but eventually escaped from the terrorists,” Cuerpo said.
Cuerpo said their rescue operations during the early parts of the siege flashed back when he joined the cutting of ribbons and inauguration of the new bridge on Saturday.
“The armed men were blocking us here that made our rescue efforts difficult. They eventually wanted to retreat and leave Marawi passing that bridge but they did not succeed. Heavy troops blocked them across the bridge,” he added.
The inauguration of the new Banggolo Bridge is one of the events commemorating the liberation in Marawi.
The Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) is now working on the permanent housing, the grand Padian Market, the school of living tradition, the Peace Memorial Park, Marawi Museum, integrated school building, barangay complexes, and transcentral roads which are implemented by the local government unit (LGU) and its partner agencies.
Aside from the local government unit (LGU)-led projects, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Lanao del Sur is also working on four bridges, alternate by-pass roads, and a school inside and outside the MAA.
“The bridges and roads will solve the congested traffic and these will be finished in March 2021. These are all parts of the Bangon Marawi Comprehensive Reconstruction and Rebuilding Plan,” said Engr. Mikki Macabantog, the focal person of DPWH for Marawi projects. (PNA)