“Everything you want is out there waiting for you to ask. Everything you want also wants you. But you have to take action to get it.”
By Alex P. Vidal
TO whom will the Ilonggos listen and believe?
The question whether the proposed 14-kilometer Panay-Guimaras-Negros bridge project will push through has become a case of “too many cooks will spoil the broth.”
Since 2016 when President Duterte assumed office, there has been multitudes of pronouncements that the construction of the multi-billion project, supposedly included under the administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program, would start in 2017.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the National Economic Development Authority (Neda), and the Department of Budget are the three key government agencies involved in the project.
The project will never be materialized without the triumvirate’s blessings and coordination.
The problem is there has been no particular agency tasked primarily to give the public updates on what is going on.
There were cases when DPWH said one thing, and the Neda said another thing.
No coordination; everyone is his own boss and authority when it comes to giving the public a bird’s eye view about the project.
The identity crisis has exacerbated the delays since nobody is explaining what; no one is accountable when it comes to total disclosure of the project’s status.
Everyone has turned into a guessing game; everyone has become skeptical and confused.
From 2017 until the third quarter of 2019, all the three agencies, particularly the DPWH and Neda, could report, so far, was that the project “is still undergoing a feasibility study” financed by the Chinese Government.
Since nothing has happened in as far as initial start of public works are concerned, so many politicians and organizations have joined the fray in calling for its construction soon.
Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, wooing the votes of Guimarasnons in the recent polls, promised to “push” for the bridge construction “soon.”
Iloilo Governor Arthur “Toto” Defensor Jr. wished the bridge project was included in President Duterte’s most recent State of the Nation Address (Sona), which never happened.
Senator Franklin Drilon told fellow Ilonggos during the turnover of the newly-restored University of the Philippines (UPV) main building at the UPV Iloilo City campus last month that “it’s high time” the bridge was constructed.
The senator from Molo said he has talked with DPWH Secretary Mark Villar to commence the construction soon.
Drilon declared: “There is a feasibility study funded by China, one year of feasibility study which started this January and supposed to be completed by the end of the year. We do not know what exactly the status is but we do hope that this feasibility study is finished on time so that the construction can commence.”
Most recently, the Provincial Board Members League (PBML) in Western Visayas, headed by Domingo Oso, has called for the construction of the bridge, estimated to cost P14 billion, that would connect the islands of Panay, Guimaras and Negros Occidental.
More politicians and organizations in Panay and Negros are expected to release their own versions of “requesting the DPWH…” soon even as 2022, the year of the supposed completion of all the projects under the “Build, Build, Build” program, is near.
If these “requests” and “expectations” from politicians and organizations continue to pour desperately, this means the project doesn’t have any specific or concrete calendar yet to commence.
If the government is hell-bent to start the construction of the project, there’s no need for the likes of Drilon to remind the agencies concerned; there’s no need for organizations like the PBML to “push” for the bridge’s construction.
Last month, Anna Mae Yu Lamentillo, chairperson of the DPWH’s “Build, Build’ Build” Committee, said the Panay-Guimaras-Negros Bridge project’s feasibility study “is expected to be completed within this year.”
The first phase of the proposed project is the Panay-Guimaras Bridge, which will reportedly start in Leganes, Iloilo and will end in Buenavista, Guimaras while the second phase is the Guimaras-Negros Island Bridge, which will reportedly start in San Lorenzo, Guimaras and will end in Pulupandan, Negros Occidental.
The Provincial Development Council (PDC) of Negros Occidental endorsed the conduct of the feasibility study for the project to the Provincial Board and the Regional Development Council (RDC-6) in June this year.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)