RAW CUTS | A bridge that “clouds” the water
As of the weekend, the latest news we heard on the development of the Samal Island-Davao City (SIDC) Connector Bridge Project was the start of drilling drilling activities on the Davao approach by workers from the Chinese entrepreneur.
Based on the statement of Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) spokesman Dean Ortiz, who is now the designated source of official information on all things project related, it appears nothing will stop the start of construction. – not even the outcry of those who consider themselves economically wronged, as well as those who have devoted a large part of their lives to the protection and preservation of the environment.
On the face of it, legal action – if pursued – can only delay the start of construction. Yet he is unlikely to stop the project, which many if not all Davaoeños (Samalenos included) believe will have a positive impact on the island city’s economy.
Even those who are most vocal in their protests – not necessarily against the project but over the location of the Samal side approach to the bridge – agree that the infrastructure will be a huge boost for the maximum development of the island. The latter sector and the environmental guardians are apparently on their last possible option in their efforts to convince the government to consider their suggested change in the alignment of the bridge, hoping that their resort businesses and the environmental cause could continue to contribute to the advancement of Samal’s economy. next to what the bridge will offer. The affected commercial actors also hope that the consideration of their request for a relocation of the Samal approach will help maintain the livelihoods of hundreds of individuals dependent on the continued operation of the affected stations.
Anyway, while we personally – and perhaps many others – hope for a win-win resolution of conflicting issues, we remain proponents of the idea that the true measure of development is when a project succeeds. to a much larger number of beneficiaries than those who risk suffering from it. But the determination of the number of victims should not only be limited to the sphere of the area or to the places directly impacted by the project, such as the Samal-Davao City bridge. It should also include those who are externally but indirectly driven to suffer the consequences and how long they are likely to continue to suffer.
If only to clarify our treaty and give people the opportunity to get an idea of the number of beneficiaries of the project and those of future victims either by direct impact or by implication, we carry in full an article written by a certain Tom Villarin whose name seems familiar to us. However, we did not meet once. We have yet to find out if this article has ever been printed in any of the local Davao newspapers.
But we like the article in the way it is written and its relevance at this time when the controversy over the implementation of the bridge project persists and needs an acceptable resolution despite indications that it is now a “go”. Through whoever shared this with us, we asked Mr. Villarin for permission to use his article as a major part of our column today. Thanks to the persuasive approach of our friend-sharer, we were told that we had Mr. Villarin’s approval.
Tom Villarin’s article is subtitled “A Tale of Two Bridges”. We deleted a few words to avoid the possibility of politicizing the issue. Here is Mr. Villarin’s article:
“Two bridges in Mindanao being built by the national government would become the longest in the Philippines, surpassing the San Juanico Bridge that connects Samar and Leyte. These are the Panguil Bay Bridge connecting two regions – Zamboanga and Northern Mindanao, and the Samal Island-Davao City Connection Bridge (SIDC), connecting, well, just Samal and Davao City.
“But these two bridges are contrasting legacies of previous national government administrations – Aquino III and Duterte. The Panguil Bridge was signed during PNoy’s tenure under a build-operate-transfer/public-private partnership program which cost less, while the SIDC was signed during its successor (Aquino III), the President Duterte, thanks to a loan from China. While having almost the same lengths, the two have different prices – P7.3-B for Panguil and P23-B (not including interest, most likely) for SIDC. Of course, the Panguil Bridge is only a 2-lane bridge, while the Samal-Davao Bridge is a four-lane bridge. Why a four lane bridge to connect to Samal is mind boggling. Additionally, part of the loan agreement stipulates that a Chinese company would be awarded the project.
“The SIDC had been planned since 2002 but only took off under the Duterte administration. Originally planned to connect Panabo City to Babak, Samal, both of which fall within the province of Davao del Norte, it is now to be built right in the famous Paradise Island Resort of Samal, as well as the main dive sites where the reefs abound corals. Thus, this created a major outcry among environmental groups and concerned citizens.
“If SIDC was intended to promote Samal as a tourist spot with its famous white sand resorts and dive sites, then building a bridge that destroys these tourist spots kills the goose that lays the golden egg. also inflates the budget for right-of-way acquisition as alignment approaches hit already built-up areas with high zonal assessments.The Davao approach can also result in heavy traffic as it falls on the flood zone of the city.
“Has there been a full environmental impact assessment? Environmentalists, academics, business groups, divers, etc. have they been consulted? Has the rest of the country been asked about this project, because we all have to pay the loan to China? How would the P23-B cost of the project be recovered and for how long? The project should be finished in five years, but it could extend. Meanwhile, the natural environment (corals and Nemos) will be degraded, livelihoods lost and traffic jams in Sasa, a major avenue for goods and people, will be further aggravated.
“On the other hand, the Panguil Bay Bridge is more than 50% complete and would be operational in 2023. Its economic impact would be enormous as it reduces land travel between Zamboanga and Cagayan de Oro by two hours. It would also open sea routes (Panguil Bay to Cebu City) where an international port can be built at, for example, Jimenez, Misamis Occidental, where a natural port exists. Most likely, goods from as far away as Central Mindanao/Maguindanao and Bukidnon will find their way across the Panguil Bay Bridge for shipment to the Visayas, Luzon and overseas. The port of Davao, meanwhile, will only handle bananas and crops from the neighboring region of Caraga. And transporting goods from Davao to Manila will not be cheap as it is hundreds of nautical miles away than if shipped from Panguil Bay.
“So, Mindanaoans and Filipinos, which of the two bridges have a sustainable, environmentally sound and economically feasible design study? Who benefits and are the costs fairly distributed?
“I think the SIDC project needs to be reassessed and national consultations need to be conducted on its impact. All Filipinos will eventually pay for this project. Not just the Davaoenos.
Indeed, this article by Tom Villarin is not only worth reading; it is food for thought for anyone who sees the bridge as a project for future generations who will benefit or suffer from all its consequences.