The Cebu-Cordova bridge:Connecting islands

MIKE ABOUT TOWN - Mike Toledo - The Philippine Star
The Cebu-Cordova bridge:Connecting islands
A major infrastructure project and soon to become part of Cebu’s iconic landmarks, the 8.5-km. Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway (CCLEX) will connect mainland Cebu from Cebu City to Cordova town in Mactan Island.

Back in 1972, the first of Cebu’s big bridges was constructed and inaugurated to span the Mactan Channel, connecting the Cebu mainland and Mactan island through Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu City. Officially, it was known as the Mactan-Mandaue Bridge, but locals referred to it as the Osmeña Bridge in honor of Sergio Osmeña Sr., fourth president of the Philippines, who hailed from the province.

I have vivid memories of how things were  before this bridge was erected. We had to cross the channel by barge to and from the airport to the city, just like the RoRo (roll on/roll off) of today but much older in vintage.

As commerce and development expanded in the province, so, too, was a new bridge needed to decongest traffic on the Mactan-Mandaue Bridge. In 1999, a beautiful cable-stayed bridge was opened, inaugurated by my former boss,  then-President Joseph Ejercito Estrada. It was named the Marcelo Fernan bridge in honor of the former Supreme Court chief justice and senate president (the only Filipino to have served in both positions) who also hailed from the province.

I was there with then-President Erap when the bridge was opened to the public and, to this day, I still marvel at its architectural beauty.

Economic expansion in Cebu, and in the rest of the region, accelerated by leaps and bounds, that two bridges just weren’t enough. There was a need for another to span the Mactan Channel to ease traffic and the flow of goods from one island to the other.

President Rodrigo Duterte leads the laying of the time capsule as Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) chairman Manny V. Pangilinan and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea look on during the groundbreaking ceremony for the P28-billion CCLEX in Cordova Cebu.

In 2017, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte led the groundbreaking rites for the 8.5-kilometer Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway or CCLEX, the third bridge that would cross the Mactan Channel, connecting the Cebu mainland from the Cebu South Coastal Road (CSCR) to Cordova town on the southernmost tip of Mactan Island.

To recall, the fast-tracking of this bridge project was in line with President Duterte’s clarion call to speed up implementation of high-impact infrastructure projects under his “Build, Build, Build” program and the Private-Public Partnership framework, which also included other bridge projects to inter-connect islands in the Visayas and Mindanao. 

On the sidelines of the groundbreaking rites, Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan also discussed with President Duterte plans for such bridges that would connect these islands.

It augured well that Secretaries Mark Villar of DPWH and Art Tugade of DOTr were at the helm of the respective departments that carried out the President’s directive.

It bears repeating that the whole process was done in record time, with then-Cebu City mayor (now Vice Mayor) Mike Rama and then-Cordova mayor (now Presidential Legislative Liaison Office Secretary) Addy Sitoy instrumental in making this vision a reality.

The CCLEX is said to be the largest single investment by a private company in the Philippines today. It is a project of the Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC), a unit under MPIC. The bridge is now halfway done and is on track for its completion by next year.

MPIC president Jose Ma. K. Lim (second from left) led Cebu City Vice Mayor Michael Rama (third from right under the umbrella), Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) Secretary Adelino Sitoy (second from right partly hidden to camera), and Cordova Mayor Mary Therese Sitoy-Cho (extreme right) during an ocular inspection of CCLEX’s ongoing construction. Also in photo is Acciona director Ruben Camba (extreme left).

Overall project progress of the CCLEX was at 49.85 percent. Our hats off to the MPIC and Tollways leadership, and of course, to the hardworking president and general manager of the Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway Corp. (CCLEC), my high school classmate, Allan Alfon. Take a bow, Allan!

I was part of a group that conducted an onsite inspection of the bridge and, I must say, it was impressive. The substructure of the main bridge’s two towers, the 400-ton form traveler for Towers 1 and 2, was already completed. The form traveler will be used for bridge work and to build the pier table, which will sit atop each substructure.

Simultaneous activities at the project site were also being conducted, which included the concreting and construction of columns and piers for the bridge’s on-ramp and bored piling for the off-ramp alongside the Cebu South Coastal Road (CSCR).

The bridge and its connecting roadways and ramps are being completed by the CCLEC, a subsidiary of MPTC, which will also operate it once done.

The progress of this project would also not have been possible without the partnership forged between the CCLEC, the Cebu City government under Mayor Edgar Labella, and the government of the Municipality of Cordova under Mayor Mary Therese Sitoy-Cho. Kudos also to Secretary Mike Dino, Presidential Assistant for the Visayas.

This is but another example of the private sector, especially big business, working together with government, especially LGUs, to achieve greater heights and span greater distances, no pun intended.

(From left) Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC) SVP for Communication and Stakeholder Management Romulo Quimbo Jr., BCDA director lawyer Aris Batuhan, CCLEX project steering group chairman engineer Pericles Dacay, Cebu City Vice Mayor Mike Rama, Jose Ma. K. Lim, MPTC president Rod Franco, PLLO Undersecretary Jing Paras, the author, Secretary Addy Sitoy and Cebu-Crodova Link Expressway Corp. president Allan Alfon.

And this being the month of hearts, let me just say that bridges such as these are made out of love — for the country, for the people, and for national development.

Happy Valentine’s to all!

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