Monday, March 20, 2017
ILOILO City – The Chinese government may fund the proposed Panay-Guimaras-Negros bridges project as the Duterte administration plays down the country’s territorial dispute with Asia’s superpower.
Finance secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Vice Minister Fu Ziying of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce exchanged letters on two feasibility studies of nine proposed projects that could receive Chinese support.
One of the two studies was on the construction of the Panay-Guimaras-Negros bridges. The other was the Davao City expressway project.
Building the bridges to connect the three islands was dreamed way back during the administration of then President Corazon Aquino but none of the administrations that succeeded hers managed to concretize the plan for lack of funds.
Fu was part of the high-level Chinese delegation led by Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang that met President Rodrigo Duterte in Davao City on Friday. A Six-Year Development Program (SYPD) for Trade and Economic Cooperation was signed.
Duterte visited China last year to rekindle the Philippines’ with China that was marred by a dispute in the South China Sea.
The Panay-Guimaras-Negros bridges will be good for Guimaras’ economy, and tourism industry in particular, said Mayor Eugene Reyes of Buenavista, Guimaras.
“We are excited to see the bridges,” Reyes told Panay News, especially the one that will connect Guimaras to Iloilo via Buenavista.
More tourists and investors would be coming in, he said.
Aside from its world-famous sweet mangoes, Guimaras is famous for its pristine beaches and dive sites.
Guimaras will just be a few minutes drive from Iloilo or from Negros, said Reyes.
There has been a proposal to build the bridge from the Iloilo towns of either Leganes or Zarraga to Buenavista. The bridge’s length is estimated to be around 3 km only.
Reyes assured operators of motorboats plying the Buenavista-Iloilo City route they won’t be displaced should the bridge be realized.
These motorboats will continue to have passengers, those from Iloilo City working in Guimaras and those from Guimaras working or studying in Iloilo City, he explained.
“These people need not pass by Leganes or Zarraga towns,” said Reyes.
November last year, a delegation of Chinese “technical people” visited Buenavista and Leganes.
“Gin tan-aw nila ang situation sa Leganes kay ma-entra sila sa PPP (public-private partnership),” said Cong. Arcadio Gorriceta of Iloilo’s 2nd District where Leganes belonged.
The Chinese first visited Buenavista then headed to Barangay Bigke, Leganes. The village was being considered a “gateway” for the Iloilo-Guimaras bridge.
“Once this is realized, Leganes will be the jump-off point to other regions in the Visayas. We’re excited,” said Gorriceta.
In January 2016 during the Aquino administration, Ilonggo senator Franklin Drilon announced there would be a feasibility study for a 2.6-kilometer Iloilo-Guimaras bridge to be funded by the South Korean government.
Drilon said the project had an estimated cost of $70 million, or P3.5 billion./PN