Revisiting Samal Bridge

We, Dabawenyos, salivate in Cebu City, Metro Manila, and other places having their bridges and wide highways.

The much -ballyhooed Samal Bridge cannot even take off from its planning stage. Planning projects involve three Ps — politicians, planners, and people. In the case of Samal Bridge, only politicians and planners had been talking since day one.

The intransigence of the Department of Public Works and Highways in taking into consideration vital issues of concerns raised by stakeholders derailed the project.

If DPWH and its Chinese contractors insist on setting up the massive bridge infrastructures on the sites they wanted to land in Samal island that action would totally destroy the rich coral reefs which are part of the remaining two percent viable corals in the country. The environmental impact is simply ignored by politicians, DPWH and DENR.

The Rodriguez family who owns the first resort on the island — the Paradise Resort — had, since time immemorial, guarded the coral reefs and other marine life in the area from dynamite fishermen and coral collectors. The resort is fronting the reef. If you see a variety of fishes as you wade by the beach you can be sure these came from the coral reefs and diverse marine resources in the area which are veritable spawning grounds of fishes, octopuses, and squids to name a few.

The Rodriguez family is not alone in expressing their concerns about the environmental impact of the bridge as stoically planned by DPWH. To save the coral reefs the Rodriguez and the Lucas family had offered a part of the valuable properties they owned not far from where the DPWH and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources wisemen had approved without thinking.

Don’t get me wrong if I raise a red flag on this project undertaking. I am all for this bridge and in my small way had been batting for it as this will redound to the economic benefits of the Island Garden City of Samal.

What militates against the way DPWH wanted to carry out the project is that there is a solution to the potential stalemate in the undertaking and yet surprisingly ignores this.

Years back, Japan submitted a preliminary feasibility study for the construction of the Davao-Samal Bridge. That study focused not only on the bridge per se but on the environmental impact on the Davao Gulf marine resources. It, therefore, proposed several alternatives which comprehend what is environmentally acceptable and least costly as it is the shortest distance from Davao City and Samal. Among these is a site in Barangay Caliclic which is adjacent to the property being donated by the Rodriguez and Lucas family. It merely requires a slight alignment from where DPWH wanted to anchor the bridge on the Samal side.

The tenaciousness of DPWH invites suspicion. Why would they insist on procuring expensive real estate properties instead of accepting the donations from Rodriguez and Lucas families? And why are you putting words into the mouth of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. saying he will attend the groundbreaking and the inaugural ceremonies of the bridge? Is it a strategy to stifle objections?

On the other hand, what is the interest of DENR officials in their acquiescence over these shady and surreptitious negotiations? Then-president Rodrigo Duterte canceled the environmental compliance certificates of a reclamation project in Coron, Palawan because of serious violations. Why have they conveniently stonewalled Duterte’s action? Their silence is deafening.

DPWH and DENR in Davao Region had been in the news for some time now. DPWH and its contractors were identified as the culprits behind the constant water supply disruption in Davao City. Their dredging equipment hit the Davao City Water District transmission pipes, not in a few times. It was only when Mayor Baste Duterte warned them of the consequences that they became cautious with what they do.

DENR, on the other hand, let go of illegal logging operations that had been flagrantly operating in Davao del Norte and Davao de Oro.

DPWH is also famous for constructing wave-like highways and DENR for its insensitivity to the environment and natural resources. And we wonder why the Cabinet Secretaries of these two departments have a very high tolerance for the ineptness and inutility of their regional officials.

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