By Jun N. Aguirre
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) have not yet reached its final decision whether to allow the San Miguel Corporation (SMC) to build the proposed Malay - Boracay Bridge, or not.
In an interview, DPWH Secretary Mark Villar said that they are taking into considerations the sentiments of the Boracay residents, many of whom are against the project.
Last year, the DPWH announced that they were keen on giving the SMC the Original Proponent Status (OPS), one of the key government requirements before the conglomerate could commence on the construction of the bridge.
“We are still taking into consideration the sentiments of the people and concerns on environmental management,” he said.
According to SMC’S website, the construction of the bridge aims to achieve the following to ensure the safety for island residents and tourists coming in and out of Boracay:
To prevent the sea and the land from being polluted by sewage water and preserve the environment of Boracay by moving out wastes as soon as they are generated. To transport the waste generated in Boracay Island to Panay Island and supply water to Boracay Island through a water supply pipeline to be constructed on the proposed bridge.
To provide reliable transportation means to Panay Island from Boracay Island which is optimized for the transportation using a bridge with loading and unloading areas on both ends.
To supply power and telecommunication through their pipelines to be integrated on the proposed bridge.
To provide a safe evacuation route for the people from Boracay Island when typhoon approaches the island.
The proposed bridge is not envisioned to cater to vehicular through-traffic, so as not to congest the island. It will be provided with loading/unloading areas at both ends to process the movement of commuters, solid waste, goods, and supplies.
The Boracay Inter Agency Task Force (BIATF) is awaiting the recommending approval of the DPWH before it can start the deliberations on the proposed Boracay Bridge.
Benny Antiporda, undersecretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said that the proposed bridge is still not in the pipeline agenda of the BIATF. The BIATF was tasked by President Rodrigo Duterte to ensure that all major developmental decision being made on Boracay strictly adhere to environmental protection.
“I’ve heard that there is much opposition to the proposed bridge. Its approval is yet to be deliberated by the task force. For me personally, I am in favor of the Boracay Bridge because it would minimize certain problems like what we saw during the onslaught of typhoon Ursula. With the bridge, tourists could easily be transported in times of calamities and also garbage could be easily collected and transferred,” Antiporda said.
SMC president and chief operating officer Ramon S. Ang said the 1.2-kilometer bridge project linking the resort island to the main province of Aklan will be beneficial to both locals and tourists.
Ang dubbed the project as “the most important component to save Boracay.”
Ang said the project was not meant to boost tourism in the province as much as it was envisioned to decongest the island resort.
Should the project be approved, Ang would bring 25,000 workers to Boracay who would be housed in nearby Caticlan to avoid crowding the island further.
The project should also address water and sewage issues on the island through connecting pipes at the bridge that would remove sewage and provide fresh water to Boracay and help trucks easily move solid waste off the island.
But Ang still has to secure original proponent status from the DPWH before the project can proceed for review at the National Economic and Development Authority.
In order to win the acceptability of Boracay stakeholders, SMC holds several pocket meetings with private stakeholders of Boracay.
Malay Councilor Nenette Aguirre-Graf, former president of the Boracay Foundation Incorporated (BFI) said they are opposing the proposed Boracay Bridge.