‘BRIDGE OF BROKEN DREAMS’: Fate of Panay-Guimaras-Negros Bridge in doubt as Duterte admin reviews infra program

(Photo from DPWH)

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

THE ambitious and much-anticipated bridge connecting Panay to the provinces of Guimaras and Negros Occidental is now clouded in uncertainty following reports that several big-ticket infrastructure projects of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte will be shelved due to financing and engineering challenges.

In a report published by Rappler, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said that the administration will not push through with all of its 75 big ticket infrastructure projects in the country.

“We found out that there are standing blocks, hindrances, constraints to carrying them out. That is a natural occurrence,” Pernia said in the report.

Pernia is at the helm of the powerful National Economic and Development Authority which reviews and approves key projects in the country.

While he did not mention the Panay-Guimaras-Negros bridge, Pernia revealed that the bridge project connecting Sorsogon and Samar, including the proposed Leyte to Surigao bridge, will not be pursued due to huge expenses and engineering issues.

The bridge that was supposed to connect Sorsogon and Samar was estimated to cost around P58 billion, the report added.

In a phone interview, Guimaras Vice Governor John Edward Gando said that they are still validating the reports as they have not receive any confirmation on the proposed bridge.

“We will validate until such time that there would be confirmation na the Panay Guimaras Bridge is out. We are looking also at the context of the statement kay teh nabasahan ta pa lang, wala ta kabalo sang concept if it is the whole package or a few lang,” he said.

The Guimaras provincial board recently passed a resolution asking the Duterte administration to prioritize the construction of the bridge following the tragic incident at the Iloilo Strait, according to Gando.

Gando said they are also looking into the possibility of a possible public-private-partnership (PPP) with a private firm if the bridge will not be included in Duterte’s “Build, Build, Build” program.

“We are also, looking at the possibility of a partnership with a private sector, dumduman man naton may pronouncement si Sen. Franklin Drilon, may negosyante nga interesado magfund sang bridge,” he said.

Recently, Drilon said he encouraged San Miguel Corp. (SMC) President and Chief Operating Officer Ramon Ang to invest in the construction of the Panay-Guimaras bridge following their visit in Iloilo.

The Panay-Guimaras Bridge, which will span Leganes, Iloilo and Buenavista, Guimaras; and the Guimaras-Negros Island Bridge from San Lorenzo, Guimaras to Pulupandan, Negros Occidental, was estimated to cost around P9 to P14 billion, Drilon added.

To date, the feasibility study of the Panay-Guimaras-Negros bridge funded by China is nearing completion.