A bridge too far

The Samal Island–Davao City, or SIDC Connector, is a classic example of a bridge too far.

After years of planning, designing, fund sourcing, and contracting its construction, an application filed with the Supreme Court for issuance of a temporary restraining order on DPWH had stopped the project cold in its track.

The TRO proceeded from the complaints of resort operators in Samal and several environment watchdogs who stood path against the plan to anchor the bridge in a site which, in the construction process, will directly damage the vital coral reefs which are among the few remaining formations in Davao Gulf.

The live coral reefs are important spawning areas of varied species of fish and other marine life in the gulf which had been providing livelihood to fishermen in Samal Island and bountiful fish catch that feed the Davao Region.

Not that the opposition are against the construction of the bridge which they too had long awaited but they questioned why the bridge has to be constructed right through the coral reefs and when it can be landed in another location which concerned landowners are willing to donate to the government.

Lawyer Ramon Ed Batacan, a law dean and professor who helps the environmentalists and resort owners, explained that a very slight deviation of where to anchor the head or end of the bridge would spare the reefs.

He said that the realignment will save not only the coral formations but also millions of pesos to pay for the land where the bridge will be anchored.

That makes a lot of sense but obviously, DPWH does not want donated land.

The many millions of reasons cited for not considering the proposed donation boggle the mind.

Julian Rodriguez whose family wanted to donate a portion of their valuable land for the bridge four years ago said that had DPWH accepted their donation, the construction of the bridge could have started smoothly with no threats of coral reef destruction.

The Department of Public Works and Highways specifically in the Davao Region has become famous for notoriety, corruption, and ineptness. Just recently the Crime and Corruption Watch International filed adverse information against several officials of DPWH in the region, the members of the Bids and Awards Committee, and several contractors.

The news appeared in a Manila tabloid. The shocking story talks of how hundreds of billions of pesos worth of infrastructure projects were awarded to just about six contractors making it look like a syndicated process from the vetting of qualified contractors, the bidding process, and the awards.

The crux of the issue is how DPWH could award projects to an exclusive few whose projects had incurred unconscionable slippage that is blatantly actionable in court.

The agency has become insensitive to complaints, the decibels of which had become so intense the people behind DPWH have turned deaf.

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