MetroPac to build new Mactan bridge
- Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - January 5, 2016 - 9:00am

ANAHEIM, California – The first good news of the year comes from Cebu. According to a press release I received from Cebu Rep. Gerald Anthony Gullas Jr., the Cebu City government has decided to award the P27-billion Cebu-Cordova Bridge Project to Metro Pacific Tollways Development Corp. (MPTDC).

That bridge had been a long standing dream of Cebuanos on either side of the Mactan strait. It must have been 10 years ago when then Cebu City mayor Tommy Osmeña took me to the town of Cordova and showed me where he thinks another bridge to connect Mactan with Cebu should be constructed. I recall Tommy also talked about a possible reclamation project to go with the bridge.

Tommy is one public official who dreams of infrastructure and other projects way ahead of an obvious need for them. He believes in anticipating future needs of his constituents.

Another visionary project of Tommy is the South Road Reclamation Project. He borrowed money from the Japanese government and went ahead with the project even if it was attacked as Tommy’s White Elephant. Of course Tommy’s vision paid off and can be obviously seen now.

I don’t know why this bridge from Cordova to Cebu City had been delayed this long. My guess is Imperial Manila cannot be excited by a local project.

It is good the Cebu City government is now taking the bull by the horns and using its local autonomy powers to take on the project itself in partnership with the private sector. If there is a way of allowing progressive local governments like Cebu to do its own infrastructure projects, specially in transportation, we should allow them.

DOTC in Manila just takes too long making up its mind to do something and then fumbling its implementation. For example, Cebu City’s BRT project languished at DOTC for years.

P-Noy reportedly demanded a proof of concept for BRT not knowing that there are BRTs successfully operating in other cities abroad. Some Cebuanos reportedly visited some of these cities and saw for themselves that it works. Imperial Manila wouldn’t take the Cebuanos’ word for it. When finally launched, it is probably no longer sufficient to meet increased capacity demand. I wonder if it is also overpriced.

The need for the new bridge was obvious many years ago. As Rep Gullas pointed out, increased queuing of motor vehicles using the existing two bridges between mainland Cebu and Mactan have resulted in longer trip times. This is a negative factor to economic growth.

There is no doubt the new bridge will boost Cebu’s productivity growth. Travelers and cargo bound for the airport are always in danger of missing flights.

It doesn’t take an economic genius to realize that building the new bridge will reduce the cost of producing goods and services, and minimize productivity losses and opportunity costs due to traffic congestion. Gullas is correct to say the new bridge will spur new business activities and improve living standards through decent job creation.

 Unlike the existing two bridges that connect Mandaue City in mainland Cebu province and Lapu-Lapu City in Mactan, the third bridge will link Cebu City and the municipality of Cordova in Mactan.

 The 65-square kilometer Mactan island is home to the Mactan-Cebu International Airport, the Mactan Export Processing Zones 1 and 2, the Mactan Newtown Information-Technology Park, the five-star Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa, world class and Filipino owned and managed Plantation Bay, plus dozens of other high-class beach hotels and resorts.

Come to think of it, Tommy Osmeña showed me the site of the Cordova bridge at the same time he showed me the site of the Plantation Bay resort. At that time, it was nothing but big boulders on the seashore and it was difficult to imagine a world class resort could be built on that site. The best part is that Plantation Bay was built and is an all Filipino production.

 Plantation Bay is owned by a highly entrepreneurial and visionary group of Filipinos led by Manny Gonzalez. Indeed, kaya natin if we just get our minds to do it.

 It is also good news the Cordova bridge project is being awarded to an MPIC subsidiary. MPIC is led by business tycoon Manny Pangilinan.

MPIC has this appetite for public infrastructure investments, but has been almost discriminated by the Aquino administration. How it was treated at SCTEX was very discouraging even if in the end, government had no choice but to award it to them. MPIC has lately looked at Vietnam and Myanmar for projects because there is this impression they are not that welcome here.

This is a pity because MPIC has the capacity to mobilize private equity to build up much needed infrastructure requirements of the country. The Aquino administration rejected its offer to modernize the MRT 3 at no cost to the government and at fares competitive with buses on ground level.

If the MPIC offer was accepted, the legal entanglements of MRT 3 that Sec Abaya says hinders rehabilitation would have been wiped out. Best off all, commuters can reasonably hope for relief because the rehab project could have started four years ago.

Another MPIC proposal, the connector road project between NLEX and SLEX over the PNR rail tracks slept for a long time at DOTC and other government agencies. Now government wants it to undergo a Swiss challenge. The project would have relieved traffic congestion as it takes out a lot of the trucks on their way in and out of the Manila port through a segment of NLEX that MPIC is now constructing which ends near the Port Area.

On the Cordova bridge, Rep Gullas said “in a Dec. 23 letter, the Cebu City government notified MPTDC, a subsidiary of MPIC, that it has been “awarded the project for the formation of a joint venture agreement with the city government of Cebu and the municipal government of Cordova for the financing, design, construction, implementation, operation and maintenance of an 8.55 km toll road to be known as the Cebu-Cordova Bridge, including the construction of the connections to Cebu City and Cordova, the main bridge, structure, viaduct, causeway and roadway.”

It is good to know that on the infra front, there is this project that will soon get going. This is the best way of starting the new year, indeed.

Biotechnology

I received this e-mail from Rene Montemayor on the columns about Bt Talong and biotechnology in general.

I am glad you aired the side of Dr. Javier and many other Filipino scientists on this controversy re: GMO research and technology and the unfortunate decision of the Supreme Court. We already have enough safeguards in our system for regulating the research and release of GMO materials on the market.

We already have the Dept. of Agriculture and the Dept. of Health overseeing the use of GMO materials in our markets. Furthermore our magistrates are probably not aware that more than 90% of soy bean meal that enters our country and becomes a major ingredient of animal feeds is of the GMO variety… so are the soy beans that are made into soy sauce and other soy products like tofu and taho that consumers have been ingesting.

A similar situation is true in the corn that is being fed to poultry and hogs and some of the corn products that we Filipinos have been eating in the past 10 years. Our magistrates should have had their various staff members and researchers consult the position of the UN World Health Organization on this issue.

There are risks, perhaps even smaller than the risks we take every day in the medicines that we take. But science must march on and we consumers realize the risk-benefit ratio which government agencies like the Dept of Health are responsible for regulating and monitoring.

Similarly, we have agencies that have been doing a good job for regulating the research and the release to the farmers and consumers of GMO seeds and materials. Let these systems, mechanisms and processes operate to the benefit of both farmers and consumers alike.

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

ACIRC BRIDGE CEBU CEBU CITY CITY CORDOVA GOVERNMENT MACTAN MPIC PLANTATION BAY PROJECT
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