By AFP | Manila Standard
Presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. was warmly received by over a million supporters in the country’s most vote-rich province of Pangasinan over the weekend as he skipped a Comelec-accredited debate hosted by CNN Philippines Sunday, only 71 days to election on May 9.
Of the three million population of Pangasinan, more than half of them have supported and participated in the caravan and grand rally of Marcos and some of the UniTeam’s senatorial candidates.
Consolidated data from the Philippine National Police showed that more than two million Pangasinense went out of their residences to see and greet Marcos during his two-day visit as he fulfilled his promise to return to the province to meet them again.
Seventy-seven-year-old Cezar Acosta of Barangay Dumapot, Santa Maria, Pangasinan, patiently waited for Marcos to arrive in their area to show his artwork.
The Partido Federal ng Pilipinas standard-bearer noticed Acosta and immediately stopped to sign his artwork.
A farmer leader, 47-year-old Jemuel Bagitan, said he woke up early to join the caravan. Together with his members, riding their motorcycles, they joined the caravan which they call “the road to success.”
Elsewhere, three days earlier, Marcos, giving a glimpse of what kind of leadership he would have if elected in the coming May 9 elections, put premium on progress and interest of the people over politics, when he pushed for the construction of the long–planned bridge that would link Iloilo, Guimaras, and Negros Occidental.
As a result, the proposal elicited the most applause from his Ilonggo supporters when he took the stage during the UniTeam’s rally at the Tamasak Arena, Barotac Nuevo.
What was more glaring was that everyone knew the proposed bridge was being advocated by Iloilo Sen. Frank Drilon, an ally of his political nemesis, but this fact did not prevent him from supporting the plan.
“We need to continue the ‘Build, Build, Build’ program started by President Duterte in infrastructure. We were talking earlier about how to make the bridge from Iloilo to Guimaras to Negros continue. So that we can open up and increase economic activity here,” Marcos told the crowd.
First proposed in 2017, the bridge will be the longest in Western Visayas, and one of the longest bridges in the country, which will span 32 kilometers and will be divided into two components-the 13-kilometer Panay-Guimaras link, and the Guimaras-Negros link that spans 19.47 kilometers.
“That is one of the projects that is being proposed and needs to be studied because the government will not pay for that. And if we ask for help elsewhere, we have to show them the profit. This is one of the things that is always talked about when it comes to our infrastructure development,” he told the local media.
Marcos vowed to pursue the proposed bridge to open up the economy, in connection with his consultations with the Ilonggos on how to help the sugar industry.
“We are happy and we heard, along with the province of Panay, his plans even though he knew he did not get many votes here when he ran as vice-president. It just shows how good his leadership will be if he is elected president,” Aklan gubernatorial candidate William Lachica said.
Lachica added that he could see the difference in 2016 and Marcos’ recent visit in the province “as the Ilonggos have welcomed him now with open arms and accorded him a warm reception.”
Initially, the Department of Public Works and Highways confirmed that engineering services for the bridge would take place, with financial support from the South Korean government, particularly the Export-Import Bank of Korea.