Quo Vadis Davao-Samal Bridge?

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DAVAO CITY — If there is one thing that the late industrialist and then Regional Development Council Chair Atty. Jesus V. Ayala would have asked from his good friend, now President Rodrigo Duterte, it should have been the construction of the Davao-Samal bridge.

History will tell us that the bridge was conceived even  before the present Mayor of the Island Garden City of Samal was born. As early as  1979, Davao leaders have already foreseen the potential of Samal Island as it beaches is characterised by the white sand and the journey to that peaceful island is too short from Davao City.

Since its conception, Samal thrives to be a very nice city and it grows independently, its development largely rely on its own fiscal resources and its share from the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA).

In the mid-90’s, Ayala,  through the Davao Integrated Development Program (DIDP),  even taped the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to do the pre- feasibility study with then Mayor Rodrigo Duterte in the frontline, the group  kept pushing for the project from one President to the other but nothing happened. The project remained a dream.

Why go to Samal when there are beaches nearby? Why spend P500 for a two-way travel via the RORO when going to nearby beaches is free?

One will easily offer an answer to that question, —Samal is an island with pristine sea waters and abundant marine resources which one can find especially in the morning when fisher folks come home from a sea adventure the night before.

One would ask, if Samal is that beautiful, then why is it being left behind in terms of regional development? If it is important, then why is it left behind?

Let us not forget that the economic movement of  Samal was, and, is controlled by big families, which Mayor Al David Uy calls oligarchs. While Uy  candidly admitted his family is part owner of the RORO, they are ready and are eagerly pushing for the realization of the Davao-Samal bridge.

Island garden City of Samal Mayor Al David Uy in an interview with Newsline said, now is the time to push for the bridge because the President is from Mindanao and his daughter Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio is also pushing for the construction of the P23.04-billion bridge.-Photo by: RSCarcallas

The realization of the bridge has long been promised, but those promises transcended from one President to another. It was only last year, when finally, the board members of the National Economic and Development Authority approved the project as among the priority projects of the Duterte administration.

The approval only came after Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte in her State of the City Address last June, called on the NEDA over the overdue movement of the Davao-Samal bridge document at their office.

When the news broke off that the project will finally be realized, the Department of Finance has announced that the required financial counterpart of the Philippine government  is included in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2020.

Uy revealed that no less than Budget Secretary Atty. Wendel Avisado in their meeting on the second week of January announced that the money to support all foreign funded projects is available. As planned the project will cost P23.04-billion and the Philippine Government Counterpart is now part of the GAA which was recently approved.

Everyone was excited to see the groundbreaking, until the Davao Mayor on January 17 expressed fear that the project will be delayed. “The problem is one family was against it because of road right of way on the other side, on IGaCoS side,” Duterte said.

She said she was informed regarding a prominent family whose property in the Davao side of the bridge directly sent a letter to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) manifesting their opposition to the project and even threatened to file a ‘Writ of Kalikasan’ if the project pushes through.

Writ of Kalikasan is a legal remedy under Philippine law that provides protection of one’s constitutional right to a healthy environment, as outlined in Section 16, Article II of the Philippine Constitution, which states that the “state shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.

Island Garden City of Samal and Davao City is just 12-minutes away via RORO. People of Davao region waited for the construction of the “dreamed” bridge since 1979. Yet, again , it is again facing another challenge-Photo by: RSCarcallas

Until now, the family opposing the project has yet to be named publicly. But some prominent families which own vast track of lands in Samal have openly announced they are for the project.  Former Davao del Norte Second District Representative Antonio Floirendo Jr.  or Tonyboy, in a statement said his family is not opposing the project, instead they want it realized soon.

Floirendo said his  family had no business interests that would be negatively affected by the construction of the multi-billion peso bridge which many Dabawenyos have long dreamed of. He added that his family was even welcoming the construction of the Davao-Samal bridge as this would be good for IGACOS and for the economy of the island in general, and not for their ferry business alone.

The Bangayan and Uy family who operates the RORO in a press statement expressed no opposition to the project, instead they see it as a welcome development for both cities. It said having a bridge between the two cities will give them the opportunity to serve other areas which need sea transport.

A report published by Mindanews revealed  Engr. Sharif Madsmo H. Hasim, project director of Roads Management Cluster II of the central office of DPWH,  stated that the agency received a letter from a family which expressed opposition about the alignment of the bridge in the Davao side which will affect their property.

In the same report, Hasim said they will meet the family this week to explain their position on the issue at hand.

Davao-Samal Bridge, how long shall the people wait.-Contributed photo

Former Regional State Prosecutor Antonio Arellano shared his piece about the issue in reaction to a facebook post — “I doubt if a court will restrain/enjoin the start of the bridge project. The project study must have been comprehensive enough to cover environmental concerns. Until a court order is issued, the implementation process should continue. There is no cogent reason for a delay.”

Another government prosecutor Joseph Mebrano Apao said  “This is democracy at its finest. Everybody is given the opportunity to ventillate his/her grievance/s before the courts of law. Whether or not the writ of kalikasan would lie, it’s now for the courts to decide.”

While many suggest, this is the time that the project will be realized because President Duterte himself once dream of it and is now pushing for it. This is the first time that a President is from Mindanao who knows what Mindanaoans deserve.

Samal mayor Al David Uy was emotional when he learned that the project might be delayed due to the threat of an impending case of ‘writ of Kalikasan’, he however shared he might also file a case of economic sabotage against the opposition.

With all that is at hand, one can only ask—Quo Vadis Davao-Samal Bridge?

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