Realignment of Davao-Samal bridge project sought to save reef

Subscribe Now July 21, 2022 at 07:31pm

SAMAL ISLAND (MindaNews / 20 July) – The Rodriguez family, operator of resorts in the Island Garden City of Samal (IGACOS), asked President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to review the “wrong alignment” of the multi-billion Samal Island-Davao City Connector (SIDC) as the current landing point on the Samal side would “kill” the Paradise Reef.

Family representative Pura Rodriguez told reporters in an interview on Tuesday that they are appealing to the new Marcos Jr. administration to take a second look at the project design because it would leave an “irreversible and irreparable destruction” on the healthy coral garden and marine life once it pushes through.

The landing point of the SIDC project, also known as the Davao City-Samal Bridge, is situated on the coast of Costa Marina Beach Resort, which is adjacent to Paradise Island Park & Beach Resort in Barangay Caliclic, Babak District of Samal Island.

Both resorts are owned by the Rodriguez family.

The Paradise Reef is a 300-meter contiguous reef situated on the coast of Costa Marina and Paradise Island.

Last June 13, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian exchanged with then Finance Secretary Dominguez the signed Framework Agreement and Loan Agreement worth $350 million or ₱18.67 billion for the 3.98-kilometer SIDC project.

Rodriguez said a review of the alignment and landing site of SIDC is necessary to “ensure food security, the protect the environment, and to promote sustainable development and a healthy tourism industry as committed by PBBM (Marcos Jr.) under his new administration.”

She said they hope the new administration will have the government consultant – Ove Arup and Partners Hong Kong Ltd. – reconsider the project design and study the viability of an alternative land portion of the bridge project on the Samal side.

Dr. John Lucas, who has a doctorate degree in marine biology from the University of Texas, believed that the mitigating measures that Arup and the Department of Public Works and Highway intend to put up would not suffice to protect the reef from an irreversible destruction.

He said the reef, a “hidden treasure of Samal,” is an important “gene bank.”

Lucas said the coastal development would spell doom for the corals that would result in the death of “everything in this area” as silts fall into “the polyps of the corals.”

“Once they begin dredging, they have to dredge to insert the pillars to support this bridge. Once they do that, you are going to get a tremendous amount of silt up into what is called a water column on a daily basis, on an hourly basis, and the currents here in this channel go both directions,” he said.

The marine biologist said the reef might die over a period of three or four years once dredging activities start.

Lucas recommended moving the landing point to an alternative site where there are no living corals.

“From the point of view of simple preservation, we cannot destroy this reef and that needs to be communicated to this country, once and for all. Other scientists have said, ‘it will die.’ It’s just a matter of when. That’s all we’re trying to do, we’re trying to prevent this inevitable outcome if you put the landing point over there,” he said.

In a 100-page project description of the “Samal Island-Davao City Connector Project” published on the website of the Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the land portion of the bridge will fall on residential and industrial areas in Barangay Hizon from the side of Davao City.

The bridge, one of the 75 big-ticket flagship projects under the “Build, Build, Build” program of the past Duterte administration, was conceptualized in 1970.

“The proposed project will link the existing road networks of Davao City and IGACOS enhancing the economic activity in both cities. The benefits of the project include a resilient and solid transportation, access to education, employment and business opportunities as well as other services the two cities can and will offer,” it said.

Rodriguez added that the family is willing to donate another property, Caliclic Beach Resort, located about a kilometer away from Paradise Island, as an alternative site for the Davao-Samal Bridge project’s landing point as its coast no longer has a coral reef capable of supporting a diverse marine ecosystem.

“Just to be very clear, we do not oppose the bridge. In fact, we are for the bridge. What we are requesting is for the realignment of the bridge. In fact, the family has chosen a site, which is right after the Bridgeport which we were going to donate for the bridge,” she said.

She said that the Rodriguez family would “exhaust any and all valid and legal measures to realign the SIDC and protect and preserve the Paradise Reef for the lasting benefit of present and future generations in IGACOS, in the Davao Region, the Island of Samal and the entire country.”

Narciso Rodriguez, manager of the Paradise Island Park & Beach Resort, added that the government should also take into consideration the environmental impact of a project.

“If they dredge in three locations over there,” he said, “the silt and mud will cover everything.”

He said marine biologists, who came over to study the coral reef, all came out with findings that dredging activities would bring havoc on the reef, causing irreparable damage, not only to Paradise Reef but also to the nearby ecosystem.

Once dredging starts, he said the silt could travel to as far as eight kilometers from the coast of Paradise Island and could reach Talicud Island and the nearby areas in Babak District.

“Nobody seems to be interested in conducting study because they are excited to put something here in Samal. So, everybody is blinded by the thought of constructing this long-awaited bridge and they do not care what the consequences will be,” Rodriguez said.


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