DAVAO City is welcoming the new year and a new decade with a promising start.
From land to air, future infrastructure and transportation projects which were just high hopes in the past had, at last, are starting to materialize.
Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, for instance, had lobbied the support of the National Government to fund the city’s plan to modernize the mass transportation system through the High Priority Bus System (HPBS) during her State of the City Address in October last year.
The mayor had also sought for the materialization of the Samal Island-Davao City Connector (SIDC) Project or the Davao-Samal Bridge, which was been proposed and discussed since the 1970s.
The National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Board approved the HPBS and the Davao-Samal Bridge on November 2019.
Meanwhile, the Neda Investment Coordination Committee (Neda-ICC) endorsed three more major infrastructure projects for Neda Board approval: the Davao City Coastal Bypass Road with the Bucana Bridge Project; changes in scope and cost of the ongoing Davao City Bypass Construction Project; and unsolicited proposal for the Davao International Airport.
High Priority Bus System
While the city is not experiencing traffic as heavy as the one in Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (Edsa) in Metro Manila, it can be observed that traffic around the city have been getting worse.
The traffic scenario, especially during peak hours, had also resulted to a visible shortage of public utility jeepneys (PUJs) serving some areas in the city.
To address the problem with the city’s public transport woes, it has developed and conceptualized the High Priority Bus System (HPBS).
Under the HPBS, more than 7,000 jeepneys will be replaced by an estimated 1,000 low-floor type buses, reducing the current 120 to 130 PUJ routes to 29 bus routes.
Despite opposition from PUJ groups, there is no stopping now for the local government after Neda Board approved the P18.66 billion.
Affected drivers and operators would be compensated in return, with an almost P1 billion social compensation program.
The first phase of the project targeted to commence within the first half of the year, and is expected to fully operate in 2023.
Coastal and Bypass roads
Road congestion has been a long struggle for the city. The need for more alternative roads is being pushed to address this concern.
City Transport and Traffic Management Office (CTTMO) head Dionisio Abude cited McArthur Highway which could only cater 3,000 vehicles per hour. But the vehicles passing the highway, he said, have almost reached double.
With this, the city had since started the construction of the Coastal Bypass Road in 2017.
The project involves the construction of an 18.21-kilometer road with four lanes facility, with a speed limit of 50 kph, from Bago Aplaya to R. Castillo.
It is composed of four segments: Bago Aplaya – Times Beach; Times Beach – Roxas Avenue; Roxas Avenue – Sta. Ana Wharf; and Sta. Ana Wharf – R. Castillo.
The project aims to serve as an alternate route to the Davao-Cotabato Road and ABS-CBN Diversion Road to ease traffic congestion along busy intersections and the Central Business District. It is also intended to disperse urbanization outside the Davao City Urban Center.
The project has a cost of P28.26 billion, which will be sourced from funds from the General Appropriations Act (GAA) and the Official Development Assistance (ODA). It is being implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
Another road project is the Davao City Bypass Construction Project (DCBCP).
The DCBCP was initially approved by the NEDA Board via ad referendum on May 2015, and then underwent a change in scope and cost based on initial findings during its Detailed Engineering Design (DED). The first change in scope and cost of the project was also approved via ad referendum on October 2018.
As to the change in scope, following the apportioning of Package I of the project into three sub-packages, the DPWH proposed to divide Package II into three sub-packages. The proposed project is 300 meters longer based on the findings of the DED for Package I and Package II.
The revised project scope then translates to a total project cost of P42.84 billion, which is 65.73 percent or P16.99 billion higher than the 2018 NEDA Board-approved project cost.
“Davao is getting much of the bulk of vehicular traffic these days so together with the Davao Expressway that we will be implementing this year, this coastal road project will serve as an alternative route,” DPWH Davao Region spokesperson Dean Ortiz said.
Councilor Dante Apostol, committee chair on franchises and public utilities, meanwhile said the city government planning to utilize the existing bypass and access roads as a new route for transportation vehicles to decongest the current plying routes that experience moderate to heavy traffic especially during peak hours.
The bridge, which would connect Davao City and the Island Garden City of Samal (Igacos), has been a long time dream.
The Neda Board approval is already a major step in movement of the P23.04 billion project which would result in the reduction of travel time and reliability constraints currently experienced through the use of ferry services.
The 2.8 kilometer four-lane bridge once fully constructed can serve around 25,000 vehicles a day.
CTOO head Generose Tecson believes the tourism sector of both cities benefit from the bridge.
“With Davao being a gateway, people who stay in Davao City will make the city as its base,” Tecson said.
However, a possible blockade stands in the way after a business owner in Igacos is set to file a case against the project.
Duterte-Carpio said the owner’s camp is planning to file a Writ of Kalikasan against the project.
Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Unified Project Management Office Director Madsmo Hashim said negotiations between the agency and the affected business ownner are still ongoing.
The bridge is expected to fully-operate in 2025.
Davao International Airport
With the economic progress the city is experiencing, it is not a surprise seeing the Francisco Bangoy International Airport (Davao International Airport) become more congested over the years with more coming to work here.
Councilor Jesus Joseph Zozobrado III, former chairperson of the public works and highways committee, revealed that the passenger traffic at the airport reached 4.2 million in 2018, higher than its capacity of two million to three million.
This is a portion to other problems the airport is facing like poor air-conditioning, malfunctioning toilets, frequent breakdown of security equipment, and lack of retail options.
President Rodrigo Duterte, in his 2019 State of the National, announced that the Davao airport will be a least priority in terms of improvement and upgrading.
The president, however, did not end Dabawenyo’s longing for a city to have a “world class airport”.
Duterte in August last year the signed into law the creation of the Davao International Airport Authority through Republic Act (RA) 11457.
Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (DCCCII) president Arturo Milan said the DIAA will fast-track development in the airport, particularly upgrading the terminal and facilities and opening more foreign direct flights.
“This will make Davao International Airport the premiere gateway to Mindanano,” Milan said.
The ICC-CabCom, earlier this month, approved the Unsolicited Proposals for the Davao International Airport by Chelsea Logistics Holdings Corp., which is owned by businessman Dennis Uy.
Udenna Corporation previously presented an unsolicited proposal to develop, operate, and maintain Davao airport under the public-private partnership (PPP) scheme.
Under the proposed expansion, the new airport would have the capacity to cater to 15.5 million passengers, with the passenger terminal building doubling in size to 64,800 square meters from the current 24,780 square meters.
The air transport movement (ATM) would also have 35 per hour, from the current nine per hour.
These projects are being pegged as a response to the city’s economic progress resulting to an influx of people in the city.
In 2018, the Davao City Tourism Operations Office (CTOO) recorded 2.39 million tourists in the city, surpassing by 18.92 percent the record of 2 million visitors in 2017.
Davao City’s economy continues to show a steady rise as evidenced by the increased number of registered businesses and capitalization.
Investments have continued to grow the past three years with a portfolio of P230 Billion in 2016, P272 Billion in 2017 and P279 Billion in 2018.
While the city’s expanding economy is expanding beyond expected, so thus the need for expansion of infrastructure and transportation services.
These projects are not only a mitigating measure, but also will serve as a catalyst of change to the city’s economic landscape.