Despite the calls accompanied by various research verifying the environmental and economic implications of the current alignment of the multi-billion 3.98-kilometer Samal Island-Davao Connector (SIDC) project, the government has decided to turn a blind eye to clear-as-day evidence. The government must be afraid to reassess a commitment that will affect generations of people and inflict life-long environmental damage, especially when the needs of the people and the natural world does not unite.
Recently, local environmental groups, including the Rodriguez-Lucas family of Paradise Island, where the SIDC will land, urged the government to revoke Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong Ltd plan as it does more harm than good for the environment and its stakeholders. The Rodriguez-Lucas family has even offered another land to utilize as an alternative landing for the bridge. However, in a conference with the Department of Public Works and Highways regarding the same issue, they said that realigning the bridge has a ‘very low chance’ even with the counter-proposals of esteemed local marine biologists.
Going back to the project’s intent, the government meant well in improving the transport to the Island Garden City of Samal (IGACOS), its tourism, import, and export, among many others. This promise of abundance has existed for decades past and will be a dream come true for both Daveoños and Samaleños. It is then a valid ray of hope to cling to, wishing for the project to be done sooner, as it means economic gain and more accessibility to the larger neighboring city.
But, the sad reality is that the promise of positive growth was the only thing communicated to them, not the possible colossal negative impacts that would be counterproductive to their hopes of better living conditions.
Marine biologist Dr. Filipina Sotto, who conducted a study about the reefs in the affected areas of SIDC, verified that there are thriving reef communities in the areas in question – hard and soft reefs that are equally important. Meaning, the habitats of the aquatic resources and, eventually, the source of living for the fisher folks will take a huge blow. To which, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-XI (DENR-XI) published that they are already under the poor category through a Facebook post.
Even with the extensive studies by local experts, the government is still clutching on the overseas studies that know little about what really happens on the ground, even to the point of contradicting the observations made by the locals.
Another reason the project needs revisioning is that the people behind the enterprise are primarily from the capital and DENR’s main office rather than from the IGACOS and Davao, where the bridge will be built. Also, the contracts, Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong Ltd, are even from overseas when there are equally capable local talents. This situation only goes to show how there is also a more significant problem with the bureaucracy and planning of the project, hence why the primary stakeholders, the Samaleños, are not adequately informed of the holistic quality of SIDC.
With the whole project’s highs and lows, the best course of action will be opting for the middle ground of both the Samaleños’ aim for progress and the demands of nature, which legibly points to the bridge’s realignment. Thus, this decision must also do the least damage in the long run for the reefs and people’s livelihood than add to the neverending problems currently faced by the cities involved, including traffic congestion.
Even with the government taking a hard stance in pursuing the project with its original plan modeled by Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong Ltd, it is not yet the time to lose hope as a project as big as the P4.2 billion Coron-Culion bridge was suspended after the local groups and experts championed the preservation of it coral biodiversity and historical significance.
In this case, all variables must be considered, and shameless political agenda should be the least priority. Lives, biodiversity, and the future are at stake. No matter how long it takes, we fight to save the Paradise reefs and future generations.
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