Opinion


Bridges for Development




M. A. P. Insights
Rolando T. Dy


Posted on August 30, 2016


It took seven hours from Davao City to Pigcawayan, Cotabato, by bus, across a crude 200-kilometer (km), two-lane highway, and two ferry rides. That was in the early 60s. It was a time when there was only one Cotabato province (now there are five) ruled by the Matalams and Pendatuns. It was a period when Maguindanaoans and settlers co-existed peacefully.


Twenty years later, travel time was cut to four hours with better highways and two bridges.

Bridges are vital to economic development. They are a key infrastructure where rivers or land barriers prevent transport. They not only cut travel time, but also open up economic opportunities and promote trade. Here are examples:

The San Juanico Bridge connects Samar and Leyte islands. President Ferdinand Marcos built it in 1972. It was then the longest bridge in the Philippines spanning 2.16 km over a body of seawater. It linked the economy of two islands (now six provinces) and facilitated passage in the Pan-Philippine Highway.

The Candaba Viaduct (Pampanga), a 5-km stretch, built in 1976, is the longest bridge in the country. It passes over the Candaba Swamp and adjacent Pampanga River in the North Luzon Expressway, the major trade artery to the north.

The Narciso Ramos Bridge (Pangasinan) stretches 1.44 km across the Agno River and connects Asingan and Santa Maria towns. It was built in 1997 under the government of President Fidel Ramos.

The Buntun Bridge (Cagayan province) is a 1.37-km bridge across Cagayan River linking Tuguegarao and Solana. It was completed in 1974.

The Patapat Viaduct, 1.3 km long, connects Ilocos Norte and Cagayan province. The scenic route was built in 1986. I traveled this route in 2015 from Laoag to Claveria, Cagayan.

The Marcelo Fernan Bridge, built in 1999, links Mandaue and Lapu Lapu City. It stretches 1.24 km across Mactan Channel and connects Mactan International Airport and the Cebu mainland.

The Diosdado Macapagal Bridge crosses Agusan River in Butuan. The 908-meter long bridge was built in 2007 during the term of President Gloria Arroyo.

The government is also planning to build new bridges as follows:

The Panguil Bay Bridge, which will run to 4.2 km, will connect Tangub, Misamis Occidental and Tubod, Lanao del Norte, and reduce travel time between the two cities from 2.5 hours to 10 minutes. It will also dramatically improve the travel time from Cagayan de Oro and Iligan to the cities of Tangub, Ozamiz, Oroquieta, Dipolog, and Dapitan in Zamboanga de Norte. The P5-billion project will be funded by the Export-Import Bank of Korea and the Economic Development Cooperation Fund. It is expected to be completed by 2019 or 2020.

The Davao City-Samal Island Bridge will connect the city to a well-known tourist destination. Its pre-feasibility study was already done last Sept. 2015 according to socioeconomic planning regional director, Maria Lourdes Lim. The detailed engineering design is expected to be completed in 2016.

Hopefully, a Samal-Davao Oriental bridge will also be built in the future to dramatically cut travel time to scenic Pacific Coast. It will be a longer bridge.

The Mindoro-Batangas Superbridge. The proposed project involves the construction of a 15-km long bridge that will cover the 8.5-km distance from Mindoro Island to Verde Island and the 6.5-km distance from Verde Island to Batangas. It will connect agriculture-rich and tourist destination Mindoro to the 27 million Calabarzon-Metro Manila market.

Camsur-Catanduanes Bridge. The bridge will have a distance of 10.8 km between the two points.

The Iloilo-Guimaras-Negros Bridge. The lloilo-Guimaras section is about 2.6 km and will boost the tourism prospects of Guimaras. But the Guimaras-Negros bridge will be very long at 25 km. The bridge will link the two regions that are home to some nine million people.

The Trans-Visayas Friendship Bridges linking the islands of Bohol, Mactan, Cebu, Leyte, Negros, Guimaras, and Panay are under discussion by the regional development councils. The proposed Bohol-Cebu multi-access bridge would provide power access to Bohol while Cebu would buy Bohol’s extra water from the expansive Inabanga River. The project cost will more than P100B.

Philippine bridges are a lot shorter than the long bridges of Asia. Here are some of the longest ones over bodies of water.

The Jiaozhou Bay Bridge, located in Shandong Peninsula in northeastern China, spans 42 km. It is the world’s longest bridge.

The Donghai Bridge, also in China, has a total length of 32.5 km and connects mainland Shanghai and the offshore Yangshan deep-water port.

The Hangzhou Bay Bridge, located in the eastern coastal region of China, is one of the longest trans-oceanic bridges in the world at 35.7 km.

The Penang Bridge, which opened in 1985, connects Penang Island and mainland Malaysia. The total length of the bridge is 13.5 km, the fourth-longest in Southeast Asia. The Second Penang Bridge, completed in 2014, is the longest bridge in Southeast Asia spanning 24 km. Its project cost was P55B.

The Philippines will need bridges to connect islands and spur economic development. All sectors -- agriculture, industry, and tourism -- will benefit from them.

There are established technologies for building long bridges above water. Hopefully, the Visayan Islands will be eventually connected to Mindanao.

The question is: at what cost as compared to roll-on, roll-off ferries?

(The article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or the M.A.P.)

Rolando T. Dy is the Vice Chair of the M.A.P. AgriBusiness and Countryside Development Committee, and the Executive Director of the Center for Food and AgriBusiness of the University of Asia & the Pacific.

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