Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon has pressed the Department of Public Works and Highway (DPWH) to fast-track the construction of the Panay-Guimaras-Negros (PGN) bridge and provide a timeline for the project.
Drilon said that before his term ends in 2022, he wants to see the realization of the dream of the people of Region 6 to have the PGN bridge constructed to enhance inter-connectivity and boost commerce and trade in the region.
However, the minority leader said he is frustrated at the slow pace of progress on the PGN bridge that will connect the three major islands in the Western Visayas Region.
“This is very frustrating. We have been pushing for this project—all of us, the people of Panay, Guimaras and Negros. But it is just like a business-as-usual for the DPWH,” Drilon lamented during a Senate hearing on the DPWH’s proposed budget for 2021.
“The proposed PGN bridge is a dream of the people of Region 6 that remains to be fulfilled. We hope to make it happen during this administration,” the senator stressed.
DPWH Secretary Mark Villar vowed during the hearing they will do all means to expedite the project which is composed of two phases—the Panay-Guimaras bridge which totals 13 kilometers, and the Guimaras-Negros bridge at 19.37-kms.
Undersecretary Emil Sadain claimed the 32-kilometer bridge is still among the priorities of the agency, and also a major priority of the Korean Eximbank. He also said the feasibility study conducted by Eximbank will be completed by the end of November.
Sadain explained that China initially conducted the feasibility study but balked at financing the project. The government is now expecting Korean Eximbank to finance the project.
Drilon said he supports a review of the feasibility study initially done by the Chinese, sharing his observation that the bridge is “grossly over-designed” and expensive.
“I would call for a review. I found the bridge over-designed. It is really over-designed and dictated by the funder so that there will be more debt for a project, which to me, is overdesigned,” he stressed.
He also pointed out that the Korean Eximbank is the same bank that provided an Official Development Assistance (ODA) loan of around US $208-million for the construction of the Jalaur River Multi-Purpose Project—the biggest single public infrastructure in the history of Iloilo and the biggest dam outside of Luzon.
“I would call for a review. I found the bridge over-designed. It is really over-designed and dictated by the funder so that there will be more debt for a project which, to me, is overdesigned.,” Drilon said.
“It is very expensive. Hopefully we can review the design which will make it more feasible in terms of internal economic rate of return,” he added.
The lawmaker also questioned why the Chinese feasibility study proposed for the building of a four-lane highway for a 32-km bridge, saying the traffic will not justify a four-lane highway.
“I am sharing the frustration of our people in Region 6. You cannot blame me if we try to get a more detailed commitment because I have seen this over the years where meaningful projects got stuck in the bureaucracy,” he said.
“Next year is my last budget hearing because my term will expire in 2022, I hope the DPWH can commit to the construction of the PGN bridge next year,” the opposition senator further said.