BUSINESSMEN in Tacloban City expressed optimism that the lighting of the San Juanico Bridge will boost the tourism industry in Eastern Visayas five years after Super Typhoon Yolanda leveled most of the region.
The Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza) recently approved the funding of P80 million for the illumination of the San Juanico Bridge.
“Yes, definitely…it would greatly improve the tourism in both Leyte and Samar. As a Rotarian, we always have guests arriving on regular basis, and they would always expect the San Juanico Bridge to be in one of their itineraries,” said John Jefferson Uy, businessman and secretary of Rotary Club of Tacloban.
“That shows that even as it is now, it provides a great curiosity and wonder to not only domestic but also foreign visitors, much more if it was improved. Hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops and other local businesses will definitely gain from it,” Uy told Sunstar on Tuesday.
This will boost Eastern Visayas tourism greatly as this will be yet another must-see for tourist, said Aaron Almadro, a car marketing chief in Tacloban.
Almadro, who lost both parents to Yolanda, said that the San Juanico Bridge “not only functions as a bridge, but also a symbol of the resilience, fluidity, and inimitable strength of the Warays.”
We’re looking forward to its completion in the near future, said Almadro, who is also the publisher and editor of 8 Magazine, the Eastern Visayas’ first travel and lifestyle magazine.
“We have already survived Yolanda, now it’s time for us to focus on tourism so we can also help [the local economy],” said Rhoel Ladera, who operates a rent-a-car business in Tacloban.
The lighting of the 45-year-old San Juanico Bridge will bring “global impact” to the region particularly that we are back on our feet now five years after the world’s most powerful storm hit us, he said.
“Yes, it will be an economic booster for Tacloban and Samar,” added Ladera, who has been pushing for the bridge lighting project since 2014 via social media, following also from a proposal of Belgian Marc Cools and Belgian Hi-Lighting with then regional tourism director Karen Tiopes.
“[But] it was not a priority then since the focus during that time was on rehabilitation,” he said.
The bridge’s thematic lighting system project is set to be finished during the fifth commemorative anniversary of the Super Typhoon Yolanda on November 8 this year.
In jest, Ladera, who is also the proprietor of a cruise and tour business Aqua Momentum along the San Juanico Strait, said he could foresee an increase in the value of real estate surrounding the bridge area with the realization of the project.
He also proposed that “love locks” which is similar in the famous London Bridge will be an additional feature in the bridge aside from Baywalk, Viewing Deck Project, and other amenities.
Meanwhile, Ladera called on the public to launch a clean-up campaign for all villages facing the strait this early with the upcoming lighting of the 2.162-kilometer bridge connecting Samar and Leyte islands.
“We don't like to see diapers and plastics floating and illuminated by the bridge lightings right?” said Ladera in his social media post.
A zoning or development plan must also be in place before everyone builds their respective structures near the country’s longest bridge, he added.
Samar Governor and project proponent Sharee Ann Tan made the announcement of the project’s update during the Spark Samar Travel Fair 2018 at the SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City last week.
Regional Development Council 8 chairwoman and Tacloban city Mayor Cristina G. Romualdez endorsed the project as part of the Eastern Visayas Tourism Roadmap.
It was also pushed by Leyte 1st district Rep. Yedda Romualdez.
Completed in 1973, the San Juanico Bridge, also known as “Bridge of Love”, was said to be a “gift” by then President Ferdinand E. Marcos to his wife former First Lady Imelda Romualdez-Marcos who is from Tacloban.