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MANILA — Spanning five administrations, the P191.3-million Aluling Bridge (above) was finally opened to motorists traversing Ilocos Sur last Thursday.

Conceptualized in 1978, the bridge took 35 years to finish.

President Benigno Aquino III, who described the bridge in his July 22 State of the Nation Address (SONA) as the country’s “longest bridge” in terms of completion, was supposed to inaugurate the viaduct that will facilitate business in the Ilocos Region and the Cordillera Administrative Region.

He was unable to attend because he was “feeling under the weather.”

“We have the Aluling Bridge in Ilocos Sur; 1978 was the year in which the plans for its construction were first laid down on paper. And we made certain that our successors would not merely inherit sheets of paper,” he said, proudly.

The 180-meter Aluling Bridge is expected to cut the one hour travel time from Cervantes, Ilocos Sur to Tandian, Mountain Province by half and residents would no longer have to cross the Abra River, which is very dangerous during rainy season.

Cervantes town is dubbed as the summer capital of Ilocos Sur due to its cool climate.

Tourism attractions in the area include Bessang Natural Landmark, Gambang Falls, Yamashita Cave and Municipal Tree Park.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) under Secretary Rogelio Singson finished the bridge on March 25.

The bridge project was conceptualized in 1978 under the Marcos administration, but the structure was damaged by flooding in 1990.

The government “restarted” the project in 1999, or during the time of deposed President Joseph Estrada, when there was also a plan to construct the bridge on another portion of the Abra River.

The Presidential Communications Operations Office said the actual construction period of the bridge was delayed and took about 14 years from February 1999 to March 2013 due to several factors.

Among them were additional works that had to be undertaken to transport equipment, unpredictable weather conditions, difficulties encountered in bored pilling and unforeseen events such as a vehicular accident in 2004 that terminated contract of Phase II, and typhoons and flooding that washed away girders.