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The Panay-Guimaras-Negros bridge: nice to have but is it necessary now?

March 2012
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An article came out of the Philippine Daily Inquirer about 19 congressmen backing a proposed 53-Billion Peso bridge project. The bridge is supposed to connect the main islands comprising Western Visayas namely Panay (which has 4 provinces – Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan and Antique), Guimaras and Negros (divided into two provinces – Negros Occidental and Oriental). The claim is that the bridge will generate traffic between the islands, leading to more economic activity. While this preliminary assessment is generally true, it is the magnitude of the traffic and the resulting benefits that is difficult to determine. In fact, it is very difficult to establish a likelihood for what are expected to be tremendous benefits given also the tremendous cost of the bridge. The price tag will require quite a stretch should the usual economic analysis of NPV, IRR and B/C Ration be applied to justify the project, even factoring in employment opportunities (after the project, what then becomes of the workers?)

Meanwhile, it is interesting to make a reality check about the constituencies of these same congressmen. Do they have health centers to serve their people? If so, are there medicines and other essential equipment or staff in these centers? These are just examples of what needs much and immediate attention other than constructing what may likely become a monument to folly. First things first! There are many other things that need to be prioritized other than sinking funds into this project.

From a purely civil engineering or architectural viewpoint, the bridge would definitely be a great project. It could be a showcase project for an emerging economy, a statement for a country wanting to be recognized among its more progressive neighbors like Thailand and Malaysia. Yet, considering many other things like recovery from the disasters that visit the nation every year (think Ondoy and Sendong) it is another one of those projects that I believe is nice to have but is unnecessary at this time. In fact, the cities in the islands of Panay and Negros would probably benefit more if their traffic and public transport systems are upgraded. But that’s just one opinion…

The article is reproduced below:

19 solons back P53-B bridge project

By

12:03 am | Sunday, March 25th, 2012

ILOILO CITY—Crossing party lines, 19 Visayas congressmen have asked President Aquino to prioritize the construction of a bridge network linking the islands of Panay, Negros and Guimaras.

The legislators, in a resolution, called on Mr. Aquino, the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Center, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the National Economic Development Authority to prioritize the construction of bridges connecting the islands in the government’s PPP program.

“The construction of trans-link bridges will open new economic opportunities, reduce transportation and business transaction costs, increase access to social services and boost tourism in the entire Western Visayas region,” according to the resolution.

The resolution was initiated by Iloilo City Rep. Jerry Treñas and was signed by 19 of the 21 legislators from Western Visayas and Negros Oriental.

Aside from Treñas, those who signed the resolution include Representatives Janette Garin (Iloilo), Augusto Syjuco (Iloilo), Arthur Defensor Jr. (Iloilo), Ferjenel Biron (Iloilo), Niel Tupas Jr. (Iloilo), Florencio Miraflores (Aklan), Paolo Javier (Antique) , Antonio Del Rosario (Capiz), Jane Castro (Capiz), JC Rahman Nava (Guimaras), Anthony Rolando Golez Jr. (Negros Occidental), Aflredo Marañon III (Negros Occidental), Alfredo Benitez (Negros Occidental), Jeffrey Ferrer (Negros Occidental), Mercedes Alvarez (Negros Occidental), Jocelyn Limkaichong (Negros Oriental), George Arnaiz (Negros Oriental) and Pryde Henry Teves (Negros Oriental).

Only the late Rep. Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo and Rep. Julio Ledesma IV, both of Negros Occidental, were not among the resolution’s coauthors.

House Resolution No. 2018 was read on Jan. 16 and was referred to the House committee on public works and highways.

Steel bridges

There have been various proposals and studies to construct the bridges over the years but none has led to an actual project because of the high estimated cost. In the past, however, the government used modular steel bridges for its various projects. The bridges, unlike concrete ones, are easier to build and less expensive.

A study of  Japan International Cooperation Agency  conducted in 1999 pegged the cost of the project at P53.661 billion with a total span of 23.19 kilometers.

This includes P14.173 billion for the construction of the 2.59-km Panay-Guimaras bridge and P39.488 billion for a 20.6-km bridge linking Guimaras and Negros islands.

In a separate DPWH study in 2010, the project cost was estimated at P28.496 billion covering 13.16 kilometers. This include 3.6 km for the Panay-Guimaras bridge at P9.438 billion and a 9.56-km bridge to connect Guimaras and Negros costing P19.08 billion.

The 13.16-km span is the shortest among the target areas for bridge construction.

Based on this projected length, a bridge will be constructed to connect Leganes town in Iloilo to Buenavista town in Guimaras. Another bridge will link San Lorenzo town in Guimaras to Pulupandan town in Negros Occidental.

‘More realizable’

Treñas said the projected cost in the DPWH study “makes the dream more realizable.”

The Visayan legislators pointed out in the resolution that the promotion of the project under the PPP is an integral part of the President’s socioeconomic program.

They said infrastructure and economic development projects should also be implemented beyond the capital.

“The National Capital Region receives the lion’s share of the national budget despite the Visayas islands having a population greater than that of Metro Manila,” said the resolution.

They said the archipelagic nature of the country “requires the development of a unified well-integrated economy which allows people and goods to be transported swiftly and efficiently.”

Treñas said they hoped that the national government could release funds for a comprehensive feasibility study that would pave the way for the approval and implementation of the project.


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