The Marcos administration plans to build a second San Juanico Bridge that will link the towns of Babatngon in Leyte and Sta. Rita in Samar. This is part of the 12 mega bridge projects President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. spoke about in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 24.
Marcos, however, skipped the second San Juanico Bridge project in his SONA and mentioned only the Bataan-Cavite Interlink Bridge, the Panay-Guimaras-Negros Island Bridges and the Samal Island-Davao City Connector Bridge under the Mega-Bridge Program, which is part of the Build Better More infrastructure program.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Eastern Visayas Regional Development Council are pushing the P12.99-billion-worth construction of the second San Juanico Bridge.
It is envisioned to complement or serve as a backup to the original 2.16-kilometer San Juanico Bridge, built 50 years ago using official development assistance loans from Japan but purportedly presented as a birthday gift of the president’s father, late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., to his wife, then first lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos, who hails from Leyte. The bridge was inaugurated on July 2, 1973, coinciding with the 44th birthday of Imelda.
In his SONA, Marcos Jr. said the 12 mega bridges totalling 90 kilometers “will be constructed, connecting islands and areas separated by waters.”
Eleven of the mega bridges, except the second San Juanico Bridge, under the government’s nine inter-island linkage program were conceptualized during the administrations of Rodrigo Duterte and Benigno Aquino III.
These 12 mega bridges fall under the 194 high-impact infrastructure flagship projects under Marcos’ Build Better More program, costing around P8.3 trillion. Marcos said 123 of these projects are new while others are in various stages of construction from past administrations. (Read SONA 2022 PROMISE TRACKER: INFRASTRUCTURE)
What is the status of these mega bridge projects? How will the government fund their construction? Here are three things you need to know:
1. How did the projects start?
The 12 mega bridges are being built under nine projects of the government. Eleven of the bridges were already approved by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA Board), which is chaired by the president and is tasked to approve development plans and programs, including infrastructure projects.
Among the projects, the Panguil Bay Bridge Project, which will connect Tangub City in Misamis Occidental and Tubod town in Lanao del Norte, has long been delayed since it was approved for implementation by the NEDA Board in 2015. In September 2016, the DPWH said the bridge would be finished in three to four years. As of July 6, it is still under construction and now targeted for completion by the first half of 2024.
Once completed, the Panay-Guimaras-Negros Island Bridges (32.47 kilometers) and the Bataan-Cavite Interlink Bridge (32.15 kilometers) are touted as two of the longest bridges in the country.
2. What is the status of these projects?
Three of the 12 mega bridges are currently under construction, four have yet to start, and one (Samal Island-Davao City Connector Bridge) has been suspended due to right-of-way issues. The second San Juanico Bridge is still in the pre-project preparation stage, with pre-feasibility or similar studies in progress.
In an Aug. 5 email, the DPWH told VERA Files that the construction of the Samal Island-Davao City Connector (SIDC) Bridge was suspended last January due to right-of-way issues. It said there are on-going acquisition of properties to allow the entry of DPWH personnel and the Chinese contractor, China Road and Bridge Corporation, to conduct geotechnical investigation of the remaining areas.
Last March 16, the Lucas-Rodriguez clan, whose resorts on Samal Island are affected by the SIDC project, filed a petition in the Supreme Court, questioning the current alignment of the bridge due to lack of consultation, among other concerns. The landing point of the bridge on the Samal Island side is located between the family’s Costa Marina Beach Resort and Paradise Island Park and Beach Resort.
However, the DPWH said the suspension of the SIDC project “has no connection” with Lucas-Rodriguez’s petition, arguing the project is “duly compliant” with environmental concerns. It assured that the project “will proceed as planned once the engineering aspect of the project is finalized.”
3. How are the projects funded?
The government has yet to secure loans from foreign lenders for the construction of four of the 12 mega bridges.
DPWH said the government aims to get approval from ADB in November this year for a loan to help finance the construction of the P175.66-billion-worth Bataan-Cavite Interlink Bridge. ADB and the Chinese government-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank will co-finance the civil works construction of the bridge, which is targeted to start in 2024.
The government is proposing official development assistance from JICA to bankroll the construction of the P12.99-billion-worth second San Juanico Bridge; the Korean government for the P187.540-billion Panay-Guimaras-Negros Island Bridges; and the Chinese government for the P6.95-billion Panglao-Tagbilaran City Offshore Bridge Connector.
Although the loan for the construction of the Panay-Guimaras-Negros Island Bridges is still being proposed, the Korean government provided a zero-interest loan worth US$56.6 million in April 2022 to fund the engineering services, including detailed engineering design, estimation of construction cost and procurement assistance.
Among the loans already signed, JICA and the ADB provided the biggest amounts for the projects.
In June 2020, JICA and the Philippine government signed a P57-billion (JPY34.83 billion or $1,116.88 billion) loan for the construction of the Cebu-Mactan Bridge (4th Bridge) and Mandaue Coastal Road. The loan has an annual interest rate of 0.1% for the non-consulting services and 0.01% for consulting services payable within 40 years.
On Jan. 10, 2018, the Duterte administration and ADB signed a $380-million loan (around P98 billion based on the exchange rate on that day) for the improving growth corridors in the Mindanao Road Sector Project payable in 23 years. The project includes multiple sub-projects to boost infrastructure in Mindanao, such as the Guicam Bridge and the three Tawi-Tawi Bridges projects.
The Export-Import Bank of China is charging an interest rate of 2% for the P19.32-billion-worth loan (2.34 billion renminbi) for the Samal-Davao Bridge payable in 20 years with a seven-year grace period.
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Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas official website, STRATEGIC INFRASTRUCTURE PROGRAMS AND PROJECTS(JICA-ASSISTED PROJECTS), Feb. 6, 2023
Presidential Communications Office official website, PBBM: San Juanico bridge lighting to prop up tourism, economic activity, Oct. 19, 2022
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Davao Edge, Rodriguez family goes to SC, files TRO vs Samal-Davao Bridge Project, May 17, 2023
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Department of Finance official website, Loan Agreement Signing for Cebu-Mactan Fourth Bridge and Coastal Road Construction (CMBCRCP) and Davao City Bypass Construction Project II (DCBCP II), June 16, 2020
Philippine Information Office, LGU execs express gratitude to PRRD, PBBM for Samal Bridge project, Nov. 4, 2022
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Asian Development Bank official website, Loan agreement for the Improving Growth Corridors in Mindanao Road Sector Project, Jan. 10, 2018
Department of Finance official website, Loan Agreement for the Samal Island-Davao City Connector Project, May 31, 2022
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