By Antonio Colina
DAVAO CITY – The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) will hold another round of talks on January 22 in Manila with a prominent family, who owns the property that will be affected by the construction of the P23.04- billion, 3.98-kilometer Davao City-Island Garden City of Samal (IGaCoS) bridge, to resolve issues concerning the alignment of the project.
In a phone interview, Engr. Sharif Madsmo H. Hasim, project director of Roads Management Cluster II of the central office of DPWH, said the agency would be sitting down with the property owner and Hong Kong-based consultants Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong Ltd. in the meeting next week.
Based on the illustration provided by the DPWH, the entry point for IGaCoS side would occupy a portion between two adjacent resorts in Babak District, owned by one prominent family, while Davao City side would be located near Davao Beach Club at R. Castillo-Daang Matuwid Junction in Barangay Vicente Hizon.
He said the agency previously had three meetings with the family who he described as “very professional.”
He said the lot owner might possibly make an appeal to reconsider the alignment in the upcoming meeting.
He maintained that this alignment was the “best option” chosen from among the eight possible alignments in terms of proximity and compliance with the geographical requirements since the location is within the flight path of aircraft and a lane for large ships entering Davao Gulf.
Hasim said encountering resistance is already expected, especially for a mammoth government infrastructure project like the Davao-Samal Bridge, but added its feasibility study had undergone extensive consultations with different stakeholders both in Davao City and IGaCoS, taking into account the social and environmental issues.
“There is a meeting to be conducted next week with the family. We will be explaining to them about this project. Sanay na kami sa DPWH (We are already used to it at the DPWH),” he said, adding that almost all government projects would normally encounter initial resistance.
He said he has yet to validate reports that the family plans to file a “Writ of Kalikasan,” a legal remedy that provides protection of one’s constitutional right to a healthy environment,” before the Supreme Court.
On January 17, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte expressed fear that the filing of this petition before the country’s highest court would again drag the implementation of this project.
“Ang problem is naga-kontra ang isa ka family sa right of way didto sa pikas na side, didto ta sa IGaCoS side (The problem is one family was against it because of road right of way on the other, on IGaCoS side),” Duterte said.
She said the “final” alignment was the shortest distance between IGaCoS and Davao City.
Hasim added the consultants had been “diligent” in coordinating with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and other stakeholders such as the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG, and city governments of Samal and Davao to thresh out issues, particularly environmental concerns.
He said DPWH received a letter from the family, requesting for a copy of the feasibility study and at the same time raised some environmental issues related to this project.
Hasim said issues concerning the procurement of the road right of way (RROW) had been factored in while drafting the study, but believed this would not cause a delay in the implementation of the project as the agency is still on track.
He said he hopes to complete the negotiation for the procurement of RROW by end of this year or even ahead of the timeframe if the issues raised by the family would be settled earlier.
He said he hopes the family “would be able to realize this project would be for the betterment and progress” of Samal Island.
The agency plans to commence the actual construction by next year, he said.
“We have sufficient time. We are not yet on the implementation of the construction. Hindi kapos time (we are not running out of time),” he said.
He said Asian Development Bank (ADB) was currently looking for consultants who will draft the detailed engineering design, which it targets to complete by December this year or January 2021.
In a briefer emailed by the DPWH, the objectives of the Davao-Samal bridge include providing a “resilient & reliable transportation link between Metro Davao & IGaCoS, enhancing internal mobility and external linkage to support the growth potential of the Davao Region” and “ease of access to tourism activities in IGaCoS, enhance community access to employment, education and other social services and alternative route during emergency situation and disasters.”
The Investment Coordination Committee (ICC)-Cabinet Committee approved for implementation of this project on November 6, 2019. The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Board confirmed it on November 29, 2019.
According to the NEDA, the Davao-Samal bridge “aims to provide a permanent road linkage between Davao City and the Island Garden City of Samal (IGaCOS) resulting in the reduction of travel time and reliability constraints currently experienced through the use of ferry services.”
It added the bridge, which can serve around 25,000 vehicles a day, will be implemented from 2020-2024, with construction period scheduled from 2021-2024 and the operation eyed beginning 2025.
According to “The Study on the Davao Integrated Development Program (DIDP) Master Planning March 1999” by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the bridge connecting the city and Samal was recommended because the island has a high potential for high-grade residential development, environment-friendly industrial estate, and cultural and financial centers under the BIMP-EAGA scheme as well as resort development due to its adjacency to the city.
It said the project was urgently needed for land transportation because of the high development potential of Samal Island, the expectation of rapid progress in development and security of about 100,000 residents and around 700,000 tourists.
“Considering the state that the number of tourists and travelers who use the ferries are remarkably increasing, the economic loss generated by the waiting time for ferry is increasing year by year,” it added