The bridge ‘built’ on empty promises

ABOVE THE BELT | ALEX P. VIDAL

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.”— Robert Frost

NEW YORK CITY — Before the 2016 ended, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) promised the Ilonggos that the much-advertised Guimaras-Iloilo bridge would be built “soon” or its construction would commence in 2017.

I wrote an article that it was impossible because it didn’t have yet a feasibility study.

I further stressed in an article that when DPWH Secretary Mark Villar lobbied for DPWH’s P458.61-billion budget for 2017 before the House Committee on Appropriations in August 2016, the Western Visayas bridge was not among those listed in the country’s “most ambitious infrastructure program” Villar had enumerated that would benefit from the expanded budget (the amount is P61 billion higher than last year’s P397.108 budget.).

Some of those who pinned their hopes on Villar and other politicians, especially the excited Guimarasnons and Iloilo residents who will directly benefit from the huge project in one way or the other, rejected my point of view. Fine. Understandable.  

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On March 22, 2016, I explained in an article: “The inter-island bridge project, conceptualized way back during the term of President Fidel V. Ramos, doesn’t have a detailed budget yet despite the spirited lobbying of the Regional Development Council (RDC) and almost all congressmen and women.

“There’s also a misconception that China, which maintains a shaky relationship with the Philippines owing to its repeated intrusion in the Panatag Shoal, will fund the project that could cost up to an estimated P65 billion.

“What Chinese Vice Minister Fu Ziying of the Ministry of Commerce and Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos Dominguez had agreed, and which was covered by a memorandum of agreement (MOA) in their March 18, 2017 meeting, was for the Chinese government to help fund the feasibility studies of at least two of the nine Philippine projects China had pledged to support.

“A feasibility study does not commence the construction of any project.

Last year during the Aquino administration, the government had also sought the help of South Korea to fund the project’s feasibility study, as revealed by Senator Franklin Drilon, to no avail.”

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The year 2017 had passed and not a single cable wire, hardware or hollow blocks was seen being brought to the area where the bridge is being eyed.

In other words, the feasibility study, also reportedly to be financed by the Chinese Government, wasn’t yet able, or was not yet finished–or won’t even be finalized; no one knows.

In other words, it’s not true that the Guimaras-Iloilo bridge was a “priority project” that should have started in 2017.

Then came promises again from politicians that the Chinese government has given the go signal to finance the project on a “soft loan”, whatever that means, and that “nothing can stand the way now” for the construction that would finally begin in the first quarter of 2018.

Villar and some politicians with ambition for higher office had chorused anew that 2018 was the year the project would be finally implemented.

These liars parroted the false promises not only once but several times as if the Ilonggos are fools to believe in whatever they say lock, stock and barrel.

Another political wag even went to Guimaras to assure the Guimarasnons that “he would be lobbying” for the immediate construction of the multi-billion project within 2018.  

Lobbying? Is that so simple?

Santa banana it’s already 2019 and the May elections are coming up.

If any of those false political prophets or their relatives are running in the elections, we know what to do.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

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