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ROUGH CUTS |  A bridge still too far




Vic N. Sumalinog

NOW the cat is out of the bag of IGaCoS mayor Al David Uy. 

     We mean the mayor finally lets out his apparent frustration in his long wait for just even the start of the construction of the almost half a century-promised Davao City-Samal island connector bridge. Imagine we started hearing talks about the span being committed by national and local politicians as early as the late 1970s!

     The realization of the project was finally at its highest level when then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte became President of the Philippines.

The Regional Development Council (RDC) of the Davao Region became bullish on the project and it was one of the first to be tackled in its earlier meetings during the term of the present President. Yes, the Council got its assurance that the project was a “go.” The feasibility studies were made with the Japan International Cooperation Agency first taking the lead.

For some unexplained reasons the JICA study was shelved despite its lower cost. Another feasibility study was conducted and this time it was initiated by a consultancy firm identified with the Chinese. Of course the funding would come from a loan from the Chinese government with the main contractor being a Chinese company. The cost is several billions higher than the one presented by JICA.

     For many though, it really does not matter much. The government would not have approved of the study if it feels the same is disadvantageous to the Filipino people. What could have mattered most, especially among Davaoenos, is that after long years of waiting the bridge will finally come into being.

     As the year 2020 was about to close, the expectation of the start of the bridge construction became even brighter. This when debates on the location of the span’s approaches started heating up. There were even threats of bringing a Writ of Kalikasan petition because not only the Samal side approach would overrun a pioneering tourism establishment but will also destroy a much valued underwater creature habitat.

In other words, the project would jeopardize the business of the landowners as well as deprived its employees of their means of living. At the same time the route of the bridge will damage the long-preserved underwater creation of nature.

     Apparently however, when the government’s Department of Public Works and highways (DPWH) announced late last year that the project will commence work during the first quarter of this year it was assumed by the public that all the kinks were already settled including the issue of right-of-way acquisition and the potential environmental degradation under water. We, too, started assuming that such controversy had been settled or that some modus vivendi was arrived at since the leading protesting tourism establishment was intriguingly “silent.”

     But whatever, the issue could be considered moot and academic. The government has already publicly announced it was to start construction during the first quarter of this year – come hell or high water. And for certain that commitment is the one that Samal Island city mayor Al David Uy is holding on in order for him to be agitated in demanding from the DPWH the fulfillment of the bridge project.

Yes, even with our sympathy of the cause of the resort owner and with our fervent hope that a reconsideration of the location of the Samal approach was made we also strongly support the call of Mayor Uy for the span project to start now wherever its Samal end be located. The project is too long a promise and failing to have it started during this administration will only mean that it would probably not come at all. What with its still uncertain return-on-investment – at least for now.

     And here comes the most unbelievable justification of the DPWH in rationalizing the delay in the start of the construction. According to a lady who was interviewed on television about it, the Chinese financing institution which is tapped to bankroll the project is demanding so many requirements. How come they only talk about it now?

The general assumption then when the agency made the commitment to start the project by the first quarter of this year is that everything was already in order. How could the agency be so emphatic about the schedule of the commencement of the work when it was not certain of its capability to meet the requirements of the funding institution?

     Or was the DPWH or the Philippine government for that matter just taken for a ride by the project consultant or the funding agency? Or has the uncertainty in the Philippine position on the West Philippine Sea territorial dispute something to do about it?

     Anyhow, we cannot blame Mayor UY if he now starts doubting the sincerity of the national government in making good its promise to construct the bridge. Time is running out of the Davaoeno President’s term. Yet, not a single post has been erected just to show a semblance of making the political promise good.

     Meanwhile our friend owners of the resort are most adversely affected if the construction is to be pursued using the same design and route will still continue to have some goose bumps. That is, if their protest has not been acted on favorably and a new route has been agreed upon. 

     Let us only hope for the best of every stakeholder of the project for the good of the people.



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