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ROUGH CUTS: Realizing a second city center dream

Two years ago, when there was never any iota of idea that a coronavirus disease (CoViD) pandemic would happen, the local government of Davao City with support from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) presented the draft of a final report on its Infrastructure Modernization for Davao (IM4Davao) study.
The draft final report has for its contents the city’s existing conditions and issues, the planning framework, the infrastructure development plan, and the strategies on how to make it happen.
The IM4Davao was actually a project with a series of activities with the objectives of:
1. Crafting an urban infrastructure development plan for Davao City with a priority project list aimed at improving the city’s competitiveness, safety from disasters, and general urban conditions; and
2. Supporting the planning and implementation of infrastructure development effectively and efficiently through the capacity enhancement of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) in the Davao Region and the city government of Davao.
The conduct of the activities spanned a period of a little over one year starting in January of 2017 until April 24, 2018 with the submission of the Final Draft and its presentation to the city leadership.
One focus area in the Final Draft is the Spatial Development Strategy. It is given significant importance in order to maximize locations of the various infrastructure projects that are intended to be implemented in the city until 2045 (the Long-term).
According to the final draft of the IM4Davao the Spatial Development Strategy aims to transform a mono-centric structure to a poly-centric structure; to foster unique district centers; and to combine adjoining districts as one large city center.
Under the same strategy it is recommended that Toril in the city’s south must be the second city center to rise.
There is no doubt that the big-ticket infrastructure projects eyed for implementation in the city for the next 25 years are bold and ambitious. But as the saying goes, “If there is will, there is way.” In other words, up until that presentation date of the final draft of the IM4Davao Plan a little over two years ago, generation of resources to fund the various infrastructure projects was not forecast with obstacles. That is, that the city and the national government were definite that they can access funds for the purpose and that whatever the sources are, be they internal or external loans the taxes that both the local and national governments will collect would suffice to pay the lending government or local banks as per terms of payment.
The city therefore is lucky that in the two years prior to the CoViD 19 pandemic, one multi-billion project has been started and more than half way to completion. This is the Coastal Highway that spans the shorelines from the pier area in Sta. Ana to Toril.
Another project that has been approved by the NEDA Board is the by-pass road that will run parallel to the C. P. Garcia Diversion highway farther in-land starting from Bunawan traversing the Cabantian-Tigatto area, crossing the Davao River with a tunnel component that will cut the Magtuod highland exiting to Matina Pangi, to Catalunan Grande, to Catalunan Pequeno, and again ending in Toril.
The other week a report was published in a Cebu newspaper and shared to Davaoenos through the social media stating that the new by-pass road project is already assured of funding from the Japanese government along with another multi-billion bridge in Cebu.
Clearly, the two major road projects in the city will support the early realization of the plan to make Toril as the first to become the second city center. This is to happen even as the completion of the two infrastructure projects supposedly by 2022 under the city’s Short-term plan, will most likely also address the vehicular congestion in Davao’s main urban center.
Many Davaoenos though, are entertaining doubts that the by-pass road project can be completed as targeted in 2022, the end of the term of President Rodrigo Duterte.
What with the government aligning a huge portion of its budget in the fight against the CoViD 19 pandemic? And what with the fund source, the Japanese government, also suffering the same fate the Philippines is experiencing as well?
Yes, the economy of Japan is also badly affected by the pandemic, although it may not be as severe as that of ours.
Besides, because of the global health emergency, the Philippines, and Davao City as well, may be facing some problems meeting conditions imposed by the funding government. After all, we are certain that the money offered by Japan to fund the by-pass road project cannot, and never will, be acquired with just a song as guarantee.

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