THE Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said on Thursday it signed a P19.32-billion contract with a Chinese firm for the design and construction of the 3.98-kilometer Samal Island-Davao City Connector Project.

China Road and Bridge Corp. bagged the design-and-build contract for the project after the procurement activities in November and December last year, the DPWH said in a statement.

DPWH Secretary Mark A. Villar said, “With the signed contract, we can now apply for the loan agreement with the People’s Republic of China through China International Development Cooperation Agency to proceed with the detailed engineering design of the Samal Island to Davao City Connector Project.”

He added that the toll-free four-lane bridge is expected to reduce the travel time of approximately 25,000 daily motorists to “only two to five minutes” between Davao City in Davao del Sur and Island Garden City of Samal in Davao del Norte from around 30 minutes via RoRo ferry.

“Its main span measures 250 meters and has a vertical navigation clearance of up to 47 meters crossing over Pakiputan strait. The bridge will also be supported by two pylons with a height of 73 meters,” the DPWH noted.

China Road and Bridge Corp. is a subsidiary of China Communications Construction Co., which was “debarred” by the World Bank for eight years beginning Jan. 12, 2009 “for fraud in Philippine roads project,” according to the international financial institution’s website.

Once the detailed engineering design is completed, the construction firm will start the 54-month civil works stage of the China-funded project, the department said. — Arjay L. Balinbin