Amid the environmental and economic concerns raised on the proposed Samal Island-Davao Connector (SIDC) project, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) frustrated the hopes of Ecoteneo, City Council, and the Rodriguez-Lucas Family, among others, of reconsidering the proposed design and choose a better alternative.
Engr. John Christian Gaden from DPWH explained that the current alignment of SIDC was chosen because the navigation should be perpendicular to the bridge. There might be safety difficulties for mariners.
When asked if the design could still be adjusted, Engr. Gaden stated that there is a “very, very low chance.”
“The contractor already submitted the Preliminary Engineering Design (PED) plans, in which they have already manifested that they will follow the submitted alignment from the conceptual design plan made by ARUP,” the DPWH representative said.
He further explained that one of the major concerns is changing the measurements and relocation of utilities if the current alignment changes.
Ecoteneo Director Carmela Marie Santos presented during the joint second environmental committee alternative routes for the bridge from the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) of Japan, proposing that the best landing site is in front of the bridgeport.
Atty. Ramon Edison Batacan, the representative of the Rodriguez-Lucas Family, also emphasized that the entire Samal Island was declared protected as early as 1981 by the Presidential Proclamation 1586.
“The SIDC project is an environmentally critical project in an Environmentally Critical Area (ECA),” Santos said.
The Ecoteneo Director further said there would be little to no chance of marine environment survival at the Barangay Hizon and Samal site if the project continued with its present design.
Sharing the same sentiments, Dr. Filipina Sotto stated that any project like the SIDC would permanently destroy the marine environment.
“If we consider the reef there, as I really stand for that. If only the reef can speak, of course, then I will say that the best is that the viaduct or the tiil sa atong bridge should not be in that area. Because, of course, ma-destroy jud atong environment.”
The former University of San Carlos marine biology professor further explained the effects of the project on tourism, saying, “For business, you promote that area of Samal is tourism. For example, diving destination. What can you offer when you even destroy the coral reef that is to be offered to your divers?”
In addition, Atty. Israelito Torreon discussed how businesses, economic activity, and momentum in Lanang would be affected if the project is insisted on being implemented.
“Lanang is the center of economic activity in Davao City, but if you will have a viaduct area there, traffic will really be congested.”
With this, 2nd District Councilor Diosdado Mahipus, Jr. asked for DPWH’s plan if it would still connect the bridge and coastal road, having a change of condition. If so, the councilor suggested further studying the alternative designs of METI, specifically the central corridor proposed by Ecoteneo.
“We are now going to be forced with the alignment because of a condition that we really do not need to consider anymore,” he said.
“If given a chance that DPWH studied the other alignments, there is a great possibility that you will not choose the present alignment, but we missed ‘yung ganung chance kasi hindi natin nasali.”
Meanwhile, Dr. John Michael Lacson, Ph.D., volunteer marine biologist, shared that their group had made every attempt to coordinate and talk with DPWH and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
“In all situations, all they ever did was try to pass me back and forth to each other,” he said.
The marine biologist further explained that DPWH has a barge parked 150 meters away from Paradise Reef, telling Engr. Gaden, “You are bullying us. The only people we can send the Ecoteneo warriors out there to tell you, ‘Go away! You are about to hit the reef.’”
The joint committee hearing was held last November 23 at the Violet and Green Conference Rooms, 3rd Floor, SP Bldg., Sangguniang Panlungsod, which was attended by various committees and offices, including the Committee on Public Works, Public Safety and Security, and Tourism.
Recently, Ecoteneo, government representatives, and stakeholders from Davao and the Island Garden City of Samal discussed the situation and implications of the said project in a Pakighinabi session entitled “The Bridge to Reef: A Pakighinabi on Understanding the SIDC Project.” However, the DPWH did not attend this event despite being invited.