"Big ticket Bridges" to link the islands

CEBU CITY. If the Build Build Build program goes well, eight major bridges estimated to cost P269.19 billion combined to connect the islands of the Visayas to Luzon and Mindanao meant to push connectivity and further stimulate growth and create jobs outside Metro Manila, the Department of Finance (DOF) said. 

“These bridges will provide growth corridors and ensure that none of the major islands of the Visayas will be left behind in the country’s race to progress,” Dominguez said in a speech read for him by Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin at the closing of the Philippine Economic Briefing (PEB) held at the Marco Polo Hotel here. 

Dominguez said the eight proposed bridge projects that are set to be submitted to the Investment Coordination Committee (ICC) for approval include the following: 1)  an 18.2-kilometer bridge to connect Samar provinces to the main island of Luzon, 2)  a 20-kilometer bridge connecting Leyte to Mindanao Island through either an Underwater Tunnel Bridge or a Long-Span Overhead Bridge, 3) the 5.7-kilometer Panay-Guimaras bridge and 4) the 12.3-kilometer Guimaras-Negros inter-island linkages connecting these islands. 

Also set for ICC approval are the 5) the one-kilometer Bohol-Lapinig Island bridge 6) and 18.0- kilometer Lapinig Island-to-Leyte bridge, 7) the 5.5-kilometer Cebu-Negros Link Bridge, and 8) the 24.5-kilometer Cebu-to-Bohol Link Bridge. 

Dominguez said these proposed bridges are part of the “Build, Build, Build” program already approved for implementation by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board. 

He said complementing these bridge projects is the construction of road networks to transform into growth corridors the island-economies of the Visayas.  These also include three airport improvement projects and the New Cebu International Container Port. 

“Our infrastructure investments, estimated at US$170 billion between now and 2022, have very high multiplier effects. By undertaking these thoroughly studied strategic projects, we will stimulate economic activity. Jobs and opportunities will be created, and we are confident we can bring down poverty incidence to only 14 percent by 2022,” Dominguez said. 

The country-based PEB, now on its third and final leg here, aims to provide a “comprehensive backstory to the headline numbers of (the country’s) outstanding economic performance,” Dominguez said. =

This backstory, Dominguez said, will be sustained via a massive infrastructure modernization program supported by a comprehensive tax reform package; grants and concessional loans extended in the form of official development assistance (ODA) from the Philippines’ allies in the region; and financing support from multilateral institutions such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank (WB) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

“’The Build, Build, Build’ program is in full swing. We are continuing with our comprehensive tax reform program. Investment flows into our economy will continue to rise dramatically,” Dominguez said. 

According to Dominguez, Filipinos will feel the economic benefits of these infra projects “very soon,” with the country “moving strongly towards achieving a high middle-income status in a few years.”

“Be assured that President Duterte is fully committed to the overall economic program that will make our growth more inclusive, our people more prosperous and our communities stronger and safer,” he said. 

The Philippines, Dominguez noted, is now one of the best performing economies in Asia, with the ADB declaring the country as having entered its “golden age” of economic growth. 

Mindanao based Business leaders meantwhile laud this initiative. According to Antonio Peralta, President of the Southern Mindanao Business Council and chair of the European Chamber of Commerce in MIndanao, these bridges are "strategic" since it will ease the flow of goods and is cheaper compred to transporting through vessels. "hese bridges will eventually pay dividends and are beneficial especially since these connect areas that are relatively poorer. Trucking networks are a better way of transporting goods," he said.  

WIth reports from PNA. Photo: Wikipedia