BATO BATO, Philippines -- Bato Bato resident Nader Daud and his friends come daily to watch the progress Marines and seabees make on the repair of the main road that leads from the village to the island's largest municipality, Jolo City.
Daud and many of the locals here travel the road to the city most every day to sell crafts, buy food, and trade their belongings to support their families. But during three months out of the year, heavy rains cause erosion and ruts, making travel nearly impossible for vehicles.
Marines with 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force and Seabees with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion-3, 30th Naval Construction Regiment from Port Hueneme, Calif., with support from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, began an engineer civil assistance project as part of Exercise Balikatan 2007, an annual combined bilateral exercise that began Feb.14.
The road construction is one of several projects being conducted throughout the island during the exercise.
The exercise between the Philippines and the United States is designed to further develop the Armed Forces of the Philippines in crisis action planning, conducting humanitarian assistance operations and to promote the interoperability of the two military forces.
The road project is expected to extend beyond the end of the exercise due to the length of the road and the time it will take to complete it, said Staff Sgt. Jami D. Larson, the Jolo Detachment operations chief.
"This is the only (engineer civil assistance project) the detachment is doing that will require attention everyday we are here," Larson said. "The road is more than three-miles long, and with vehicles coming through here every day, it's impossible to shut this road down. Working here is the only way this road will be finished."
During the project, Marines and sailors are digging ditches on both sides of the road to ensure the road has proper water run-off to prevent erosion and ruts. Graders and a compactor are being used to even the road to create a smooth ride to Jolo City.
A lot of progress has been made on the project, but it hasn't been easy, Larson said.
"It's tough doing all of this in this hot weather, but the Marines and seabees are really working together to get the job done," he said.
With the project partly finished, Daud and others are already looking forward to a better road ahead.
"It seems that no one here cares about the area we live in," Daud said. "We all come here everyday and wave to the militaries to show our appreciation for their hard work. The road is not even complete yet, and we all have seen road improvement."
The exercise is scheduled to officially end March 3, but some medical and construction projects will continue through the month.