Groundbreaking of third bridge to Mactan eyed in January

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Monday, August 18, 2014


CEBU -- Mayor Adelino Sitoy of Cordova believes the groundbreaking of a third bridge between mainland Cebu and Mactan Island may take place in January 2015, although the Regional Development Council (RDC) has yet to vet and push for it.

Sitoy said the project will be a joint undertaking of Cordova and the Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC), a subsidiary of the Metro Pacific Investments Corp. chaired by business tycoon Manuel Pangilinan.

Sitoy also said that aside from its interest in the third bridge, MPTC wants to construct a causeway or raised road over a shallow portion near Shell Island, leading to Barangay Pilipog in Cordova town.

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The proposal for the bridge project, however, has yet to be presented to and endorsed by the Regional Development Council (RDC) to the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).

Talk about the third bridge dates back to at least four years ago, when it became an issue—at least in Cebu—during the presidential campaign.

If Mayor Sitoy is right, and the groundbreaking proceeds just five months from now, it would be an improvement over Cebu’s most recent experience with a major public-private infrastructure project. It took more than a year to select a winning bidder for the expansion of the Mactan airport, which the National Government handled.

In a roadmap study presented early this year, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) showed that at least 280 houses and 20 offices and factories in Cebu City and some 30 houses and three establishments in Cordova town would need to be relocated if the bridge project and its components push through.

Private funds

“This will be a joint venture project between Cordova and MPTC through a public-private partnership (PPP), with the town’s land component and the investors’ infrastructure,” said Sitoy. He said that Pangilinan’s group is ready to invest P15 billion to build the bridge.

One end will be in Shell Island, a separate island from Cordova, and the other end will be at the mouth of Guadalupe River, either crossing or connecting to the viaduct of the South Road Properties.

But an official of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) 7 yesterday said there are several proponents of the third bridge.

DPWH 7 Director Ador Canlas said that as far as his agency is concerned, only one proponent from Japan has met with them to discuss it, so far. The other proponents have yet to coordinate with DPWH.

Director Efren Carreon of NEDA 7, for his part, confirmed that the proposal to build a third bridge that will link mainland Cebu to Mactan has yet to be presented to NEDA 7 and the Regional Development Council (RDC) 7.

Carreon and Bohol Gov. Edgar Chatto co-chair the RDC.

Airport-bound

The proposed third bridge project also needs endorsements from the Cordova Municipal Development Council and the Cebu City Development Council. Once these endorsements are made, the proposal will then go to the RDC’s Infrastructure Development Committee.

If the committee finds it viable and considers all the project requirements met, then it would go to the RDC full council, before heading to the NEDA Investment Coordinating Council.

“Definitely, the project will benefit airport passengers because traffic on the two existing bridges will be decongested,” Carreon said.

Interviewed separately, General Manager Nigel Paul Villarete said: “How soon it can happen will depend solely on its financial and economic viability, regardless of whether it’s government or the private sector who will build it. It will cater mostly to private cars and not public transportation.”

He pointed out that the Development of Public Transportation Strategic Plan for Metro Cebu, formulated by the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) in 2010, did not include the third bridge in its list of key infrastructure developments.

“So, if it is going to be built, we have to assume it will be initiated by the private sector, and that their business case will be linked to land and commercial development in Cordova,” Villarete said.

Presentation

Mayor Sitoy, for his part, said that Cordova’s officials are still looking for investors to develop Shell Island’s port and terminal.

The mayor said he learned from Pangilinan that MPTC will finish the causeway first, then the bridge, which will take three years to build.

“Samtang nagbuhat og bridge (While the bridge is being built), we can reach Cordova via ferry from Cebu Port to Shell Island,” said Sitoy.

Around 87,000 to 90,000 cars cross the two bridges daily, according to the JICA study. By 2020, the Marcelo Fernan Bridge is expected to be congested.

The study showed that the proposed length of the third bridge will be 710 meters. The Marcelo Fernan bridge is around 420 meters.

For now, Sitoy said, MPTC is still conducting a technical study. “Once everything is completed, the town and MPTC will present the project to RDC,” he said.

The mayor met with the MPTC team last July 23. He said the town’s transaction with the private firm is covered by Cordova’s PPP ordinance.

Fishing

(All other PPP projects, like the expansion of Mactan airport, have gone through the national government’s PPP Center.)

Officials and some fishers in Cordova said they welcome the third bridge project, but are also worried about how it will affect their jobs.

Pilipog Barangay Captain Annabel Baraquia said that the barangay officials support the plan, because it will open the town to more developments.

She said the Municipal Government has started presenting to the barangay officials their options if local fishing gets affected by the project. One idea being entertained is the purchase of bicycles with sidecars so that fishers can provide public transportation instead.

Leonardo Jumao-as Sr., a fisherman, said he also supports the bridge project, but would welcome more information on the town’s plans.

If he will no longer be allowed to fish in Pilipog, Jumao-as said, he hopes other coastal areas in Cordova such as Barangays Day-as, Buagsong and Bang-bang, among others, will remain open to fishing. (Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 19, 2014.

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