DAYS after it was closed to motorists, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)-Davao announced that a portion of the Bolton Bridge along Quimpo Boulevard in Davao City was opened to two-way traffic on Wednesday afternoon, January 19.

In a Facebook post, DPWH-Davao announced that only the northbound side of the bridge, Bolton Bridge II, will be open for now.

The agency added that only light vehicles weighing six tons and below will be allowed to pass until further notice.

The Bolton Bridge was closed to motorists on Saturday, January 15, following a fire incident near the bridge, which destroyed 24 houses and affected more than 40 families, as reported by the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP).

DPWH-Davao spokesperson Dean Ortiz said in a radio interview that the bridge had to be temporarily closed for them to conduct core testing to test the strength and consistency of the bridge's concrete slabs.

In the case of the southbound part, Ortiz said it will be closed indefinitely. This, after cracks were seen in the part of the bridge.

The DPWH official also requested all local government units in Davao Region to help them in clearing bridges and other government infrastructure of informal settlers to avoid similar incidents from happening.

Citing Presidential Decree 17 or the Philippine Highway Act, infrastructures below bridges such as houses are not allowed.

Ortiz admitted that DPWH does not have police powers to vacate informal settlers.

“Usually, we leave it to the barangays concerned. In that case, kanang panghitabo, napugngan unta na kung sayo-sayo napahawa sa barangay ang katong mga lumulupyo sa ubos sa tulay (that incident would have been prevented if the barangay had forcibly evicted those residing under the bridge earlier),” he said in an interview on 87.5 FM Davao City Disaster Radio.

The closure had caused inconvenience among motorists and traffic.

City Transport and Traffic Management Office (CTTMO) head Dionisio Abude said they had immediately conducted a rerouting plan, especially for the public utility jeepneys (PUJs) coming from Calinan, Toril, and Catalunan Grande. These PUJ routes had to use the alternative route via Generoso Bridge along McArthur Highway.

Private motorists going northbound are also advised to take alternative routes away from the downtown area.

‘Sorry for the inconvenience’

Meanwhile, City Engineer’s Office head Joseph Felizarta, in a recorded message, apologized to the public for the inconvenience brought by the fire last Saturday that damaged Bolton Bridge.

“As early as the year 2018, barriers were already discussed and some installed under the bridge to prevent settlers from occupying the area. However, we failed to follow through on this action,” Felizarta said.

He added they “accept full responsibility for the inconvenience of the damage and closure” of the bridge.

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio said in a radio interview that families living under the Bolton Bridge were already told to voluntarily dismantle their homes and vacate the area for their safety prior to the fire incident.

"Actually, dugay nako nagsulti sa atong City Engineer's Office anang mga tao na nagpuyo sa ilalom sa bridge. Kato pa nang atoang gi-move ‘tong mga tao na naa sa kilid sa bridge kay we were told by Disaster [City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office] na kung matumba ang bridge, padulong didto tanan sa ilaha (we have previously instructed the City Engineer's Office to clear the informal settlers living under the bridge, I made that order when we moved the people living along riverbanks since we were told by the Disaster office that these residents will be at risk when the bridge collapses)," Duterte-Carpio bared this in an interview on 87.5 FM Davao City Disaster Radio on Monday, January 17.

The mayor added the City Government has been firmly calling on families and individuals living along rivers, levees or dikes, and other danger zones to voluntarily dismantle their homes and vacate these areas for their safety, especially during intermittent weather.

She said the city formed the Davao River Patrol and Coastal Road Monitoring Team under the supervision of the Davao City Public Safety and Security Command Center (PSSCC), which is tasked to monitor and clear the city's five major rivers and coastal roads from residential structures.

She said the monitoring team had already mapped out the riverside communities. But she said they are doing surveillance and coordination for each area.

The mayor said the monitoring team is tasked to talk to the dwellers and urge them to voluntarily demolish their structures and relocate to other areas.