Rough cuts | The bridge that’s still a dream

What is delaying the approval of the planned multi-billion peso Davao-Island Garden City of Samal Bridge project?
As early as the time we relocated in Davao City fresh from college some four decades ago talks about linking the mainland with the then three-muniicipality island were already prevalent. But somehow there were not many who kept a close watch of the status of the planned link because during those times development in the island was hardly noticeable. It was sleepy and its potentials not defined.

However, as the ’90s set in both the development courses of the mainland Davao and Samal Island were already clearly charted. So, this time the importance of the long-talked about bridge was already clearly established.

Talks of the bridge rising in a matter of time were getting louder and these were given some flesh during the time of former President Fidel V. Ramos who was so rabid with putting in place the Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines – East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) cooperation strategy among neighboring countries.

Davaeonos thought then that the dreamed bridge will finally come to reality with the Ramos initiatives. However, this did not push through. Three more administrations followed but still the bridge project did not level up its status from still a nebulous dream to even just as an approved government project.

With the election of Davaoeno President Rodrigo Duterte people in the Davao Region were hoping that the time has come for that elusive bridge dream to be realized. Duterte’s term is commencing its third year this month.

However, based on news reports quoting officials of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Regional Office and the Regional Development Council for Southern Mindanao, the Davao Mainland-Samal bridge project is still in its feasibility study stage with funding provided by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

We really do not have any idea if until now the region’s economic managers still consider the bridge project a “zero return on investment” (0 ROI) proposition. Samal is getting to be a strong tourist destination area. Hence, the likelihood of more vehicles and human traffic crossing the span is not anymore a remote possibility.

Meanwhile, in trying to discern the reason of the final approval of the bridge project, we think it is worth comparing the status of the proposal on the often considered a joke question, “Which comes first, the egg or the chicken?”

Should government have to wait first for development to come to the Island Garden City of Samal before putting up the bridge? Or should government first build the span between Davao mainland and the island for development to come easy to the Island Garden City?

It is our take that if for now the region’s political and economic leaders think that the bridge project should not be compared to the chicken and egg story, then let that bridge be part of the development that is eagerly awaited in Samal Island instead of let development “swim” slowly and with some degree of uncertainty towards the area.

Yes, have that project approved and implemented and make it part of the Island Garden City’s development. At the same time the bridge can serve as the primary access for other forms of development to take its roots in the island’s soil.

Maybe our leaders in the Davao Region can make the Mactan Island success story a case for serious study. When we left that place for Davao initially for a long-deserved vacation, and later as migrant, only one bridge linked the mainland with the island. After about 40 years there are already two wide bridges spanning the areas.

Last week work on each of the components of the third 8.5 kilometer bridge between Cordova town, one of two local government units in Mactan Island, and Cebu City already started. It is targeted to be completed before the term of President Duterte ends.
The speed in having that Cebu-Mactan project approved by the government is exceptional. Why cannot that kind of action be done in the case of the Davao-Samal Island bridge project?

We hope our ever transparent NEDA Regional Director Ma. Lourdes Lim can update us on this issue.

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Posted in Opinion