ILOILO CITY — State-owned China Communications Construction Co., Ltd. (CCCC) has started the pre-feasibility study for the P27.156-billion bridge that will link the islands of Panay, Guimaras and Negros.

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA)-Western Visayas Regional Director Ro-Ann A. Bacal said she met with CCCC representatives on Sept. 12 to discuss the bridge project.

“We are looking at having the pre-feasibility study finished by 2017. Then we will have one year for the detailed engineering and another year, which is in 2019 for the procurement. Then probably it might start (construction) at the earliest in 2020,” she said.

The pre-feasibility study, she added, will be the main reference for further discussions between the Philippine and Chinese governments in implementing the project.

Ms. Bacal said other proponents who earlier expressed interest in the bridge have not provided an update since the Chinese came in to pursue the project.

Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark A. Villar said in October that the Korean Export-Import Bank has taken initial steps for a new feasibility study for the three-island link, which was previously assessed by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

Ms. Bacal said NEDA is pushing for the first phase to cover the Iloilo-Guimaras segment, which would be the shorter link at two kilometers (km). The Guimaras-Negros segment would span about 18 to 20 km.

The CCCC representatives met with Iloilo Gov. Arthur D. Defensor, Sr. on Sept. 6 to present their plans and joined Mr. Villar in a recent visit to Guimaras.

Iloilo Provincial Administrator Raul N. Banias said the company sought data from government agencies, including the province, to be incorporated in the pre-feasibility study.

“They are looking for the medium- and long-term development plans. And we have already provided them our socioeconomic profile,” Mr. Banias said. — Louine Hope U. Conserva