By Arjay L. Balinbin, Senior Reporter

THE Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is hoping to obtain “grant assistance” from the Chinese government for bridges in the Visayas and Mindanao.

“I have had active discussions with them,” DPWH Secretary Manuel M. Bonoan told BusinessWorld on Friday on the sidelines of the ceremonial opening of the Binondo-Intramuros Bridge linear park and pedestrian stairs project.

He said that the grants being proposed will be for bridges outside the capital region. The Chinese government has provided various grants for projects in the capital, including $75 million for the Binondo-Intramuros Bridge and the Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge during the previous administration.

“We are trying to get some more grant assistance for other bridges like in Bohol and Mindanao,” Mr. Bonoan said.

He added that one of the bridges being proposed for a Chinese grant is the one connecting Panglao Island and Tagbilaran City in Bohol to ease access to a top tourist destination.

“There is an existing bridge that we built, so we are going to request a more permanent structure that will connect Panglao island and Tagbilaran,” Mr. Bonoan said.

The project is expected to cut travel time from Tagbilaran City seaport to Panglao Island to 15 minutes from 45 minutes during peak periods.

The Philippines and China have a current agreement for the China Aid Localized Project for Davao River Bridge or Bucana Bridge, a coastal road intended to provide an alternate route to the Pan-Philippine Highway in southern Davao City, which has been experiencing heavy road congestion.

During the recent visit of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. to Beijing, the two governments signed an updated memorandum of understanding on the Belt and Road Initiative and the framework agreement on bridges crossing the Pasig-Marikina River and the Manggahan Floodway Bridges Construction Project.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Mr. Marcos also discussed loan agreements for Philippine infrastructure development.

“Both sides will further strengthen infrastructure cooperation with big projects such as the Davao-Samal Island Bridge. Both sides will explore means to further strengthen cooperation, at the locations to be mutually agreed, with the purpose of promoting innovative economic development and maintaining stability in production and supply chains,” they said in a joint statement on Jan. 5.

According to the Finance department, the cumulative loan commitments with China for ongoing Philippine projects now stand at $1.06 billion after the recent signing of loan agreements worth $201.8 million.