Distribution of Noche Buena packs to 200 fishermen in Cordova together with Mayor Mary Therese Sitoy-Cho and Vice Mayor Ximgil Dino Sitoy last January

The Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway (CCLEX), the country’s largest water-crossing infrastructure yet, links mainland Cebu to Mactan Island through the municipality of Cordova.

In an archipelagic country like the Philippines, building bridges is a prompt to connect far-flung islands to the mainland and drive progress in the economy. But more than that, CCLEX reaches further across the seas to build opportunities for marginalized communities, help people widen connections, develop culture growth, and even sustain the environment.

As early as 2020, the Cebu Cordova Link Expressway Corp. (CCLEC) has completed its distribution of financial and rice assistance to the indigent fishermen of Cordova who were affected by the construction of the 8.5-kilometer CCLEX project.

The recipients were 782 fishermen in Barangays Pilipog (227), Ibabao (203), Cogon (148), Day-as (130), and Dapitan (74).

Prior to the release of the assistance, CCLEC together with Cordova Mayor Mary Therese Sitoy-Cho had a series of meetings with the fishermen to address their concerns and incorporate their suggestions on the construction of their access and relocation of their docking area.

Ms. Cho assured the fishermen that they will not be left behind in the town’s development as she thanked them for supporting and cooperating in the CCLEX project, understanding how vital the said project to more developments in Cordova.

In the third quarter of 2020, CCLEC also distributed financial assistance to the 387 fishermen in Barangays Bangbang (240) and San Miguel (147) while their temporary access was being constructed. The local government of Cordova joined efforts with CCLEC in providing each fisherman food and financial assistance daily for two weeks as the developer resumed construction works.

CCLEC together with the officers of Cebu City Agriculture Department and some leaders of the Alliance of Cebu City Fisherfolk last February

In September 2020, under the CCLEC’s livelihood assistance program “Panginabuhian Para sa Kalamboan”, eight fisherfolk organizations received sacks of rice for their “Bigasan ng Bayan” and marine engines to officers of the fishermen groups based on the project proposal submitted by the Cebu City Highly Urbanized City Agricultural and Fisheries Council.

Six fisherfolk organizations received sacks of rice and other materials. The beneficiaries were Panaghugpong sa mga Mananagat sa Dakbayan sa Sugbo, Pardohanon Pundok Kabus Mananagat, Panaghugpong Alang sa Sanag nga Ugma sa mga Lumulupyo, Alaska Fisherfolk Association, Pasil Fisherfolk Association, and Mambaliing Fisherfolk Association. Two other fisherfolk organizations received several marine engines. These are Ermita Fisherfolk Association, and Lawis Target Beneficiaries Fisherfolk Association.

Meanwhile, 18  other  fisherfolk organizations in the Municipality of Cordova received livelihood  assistance from CCLEC as an aid in the recovery of the fishing community amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organizations, which are all members of Cordova’s Municipal Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (MFARMC), received 18 marine engines and various materials and accessories for the building of 18 motorbancas.

Today, four NU-type short concrete bridges were strategically placed along the causeway with spans wide enough to give the fishermen and their motorbancas unhindered access to their fishing grounds. These short bridges are complemented by 20 vent pipes to equalize the flow of seawater along the Cordova Channel.

Besides helping fisherfolks, CCLEC also found a way in collective effort to save lives and lift the spirits of people as they extended assistance to the host communities of its CCLEX project that have been adversely affected during the enhanced community quarantine by mobilizing resources and providing 200 sacks of rice at 25 kilos each to the Cebu City Government and Cordova Municipal Government.

At the same time, in line with the company’s Social Development Framework Plan and corporate social responsibility program, CCLEC, together with its partners, introduced the official mangrove eco-guides in January 2021.

According to Metro Pacific Tollways (MPTC) President and CEO Rodrigo E. Franco, CCLEC made the bridge a little longer in span to minimize the impact it may bring towards the 278 hectares of mangrove areas at Lapu-Lapu City and Cordova.

As stewards of eco-tourism, the Metro Pacific Investments Foundation (MPIF), the corporate social responsibility arm of Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC), officially opened the Mangrove Propagation and Information Center in Brgy. Day-as, Cordova, Cebu, the first mangrove center of its kind in the Visayas region and the third in the whole country.

With a total of P4.9 million in costs, the two-storey facility will serve as the center for the protection and propagation of mangrove trees in the coastal areas, including the rehabilitation of degraded mangroves in the whole Municipality of Cordova. It will also provide information locals and visitors and let them appreciate the importance and benefits of mangroves in the ecosystem. The second floor serves as a viewing deck for bird-watching activities.

“The completion of this mangrove center is a testament to the intent of CCLEC, MPIF, and the local government of Cordova to prioritize the environmental sustainability of our surrounding projects,” said CCLEC President and General Manager Allan G. Alfon. “We are set to be a reliable partner in progress, while continuously placing value on their natural resources.”

The induction of mangrove eco-guides was also held during the inauguration of the center. Four individuals nominated by the local government will serve as official mangrove eco-guides, handling the daily operations and maintenance of the mangrove center while providing the necessary orientation and tour for visitors in the mangrove center and park.

The mangrove center signifies the common mission of Cordova LGU, MPIF and CCLEC to conserve and protect the country’s coastal and marine biodiversity through the protection and propagation of the mangrove ecology.

In December 2021, MPTC distributed 2,000 packs of relief goods — 1,000 for families in Cebu City and 1,000 for families in the Municipality of Cordova ravaged by Typhoon Odette. The relief supplies included rice, assorted canned goods, milk, coffee, and noodles. Each pack is worth P500, totaling P1M for 2,000 packs. MPIC also distributed food packs, and sacks of rice. With water supply and power systems downed by the typhoon, MPIC also handed out water filters and solar lamps.

Together with CCLEC, MPTC and MPIC revved up the spirit of bayanihan as they distributed Noche Buena packs to 200 fisherfolk in Cordova on Dec. 29. The distribution formed part of the MVP Group of Companies’ Tuloy Pa Rin Ang Pasko campaign, an initiative that seeks to spread positivity and holiday cheer in communities during the Christmas season amidst the pandemic.

Way back 2019, CCLEC volunteers joined relief efforts to help Mindanao earthquake victims in Davao del Sur by providing necessities. On said the year, the volunteers also collected over 1.5 tons of garbage as they cleaned up the coastal villages in Poblacion, Cordova, planted 500 guyabano seedlings in Barangay Buot, Cebu City, and partnered with an accredited people’s organization of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Cebu for a reforestation program that involves the provision and planting of 66,561 indigenous forest and fruit trees in Manipis, Talisay City.

CCLEX has also attracted the attention of several investors, including some of the country’s biggest conglomerates like Ayala Corporation, SM Prime Holdings Inc., and Gokongwei Group that can beef up opportunities to the future generation Cebuanos.

The eight 40-meter-tall crosses installed on two of its pylons over the Mactan Channel were inspired by the wooden cross Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan planted in Cebu upon his arrival in 1521 and bringing Christianity. Aside from being a monumental project of the latest engineering feats, CCLEX is symbolic in many aspects — connecting people, culture and communities.

“In many ways, we at MPTC are the Magellans today, – building ways for people to make discoveries, to travel and to bring gifts of life and faith anywhere in this country and even beyond our shores,” said MPTC Chairman Manuel “Manny” V. Pangilinan. — Allyana A. Almonte