AMERICAN and Filipino troops have completed the construction of P26.2-million infrastructure projects benefitting the residents and students in the hinterlands of Sulu province.

Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Lobb, US Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) public affairs director, said the projects consist of P19 million five-kilometer road and a P7.2 million classroom building constructed in the village Kagay, Patikul, Sulu.

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Lobb said the road project links the village of Kagay to Langpas village in Patikul town, while the school building could accommodate as many as 250 pupils.

"The school and road are just two of many development projects taking place in Sulu through the cooperative efforts of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines), local officials and JSOTF-P," Lobb said.

"The projects are designed to provide economic opportunities for residents and give the children of Sulu better educational facilities," he added.

He said the projects were completed through the combined efforts of the Philippine Marine Corps and the US Armed Forces.

He said US Navy Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion-One built the school while the troops from the Marine Landing Battalion Team-6 (MBLT-6) provided security.

The two projects were turned over last week by Brigadier General Rustico Guerrero, Joint Task Force Comet chief, and JSOTF-P chief Colonel William Coultrup to Kagay village chief Ganih Nur.

With a new road, Lobb said the residents, mostly farmers, in his Barangay Kagay, could improve their income since "they now can easily move the fruit they harvest to the market while it is still fresh and in good condition."

Lobb disclosed the completion of the school was especially important as its construction was delayed by a tragic incident in September of last year.

On September 29, 2009, two US Army Special Forces Soldiers, Sergeant 1st Class Christopher Shaw and Staff Seargent Jack Martin, and Private First Class Jerwin Estrada of the MBLT-6 were killed when their vehicle ran over an improvised explosive device as they travelled to the school site.

The soldiers were conducting a resupply mission in the vicinity of the school when the incident occurred.

At that point, Lobb said the construction was halted for six weeks while teams regrouped and a security plan was reestablished.

Lobb said the contractors and Navy Seabees then returned to Kagay village determined to complete the projects.

"Finishing the school demonstrated a resolve that lawless elements could not halt infrastructure development in Sulu," Lobb added. (Bong Garcia)