A bridge for tomorrow
Mention bridges and the Flora Purim hit song from the 70s comes to mind. Or the actors Lloyd, Jeff, and Beau. Or the Oscar-winning “Bridge on the River Kwai” from 1957 and “A Bridge Too Far” from 1977.
But this bridge I am talking about has nothing to do with stars, though it will bring its host metropolis and province into greater heights, and nothing to do with the past, because it was started in the here-and-now.
For many years, the rapid growth and development of Cebu City as a metropolis also ushered in another impact of high urbanization: traffic congestion. This is true most especially when we speak of the roadways between the Cebu mainland and Mactan island where the international airport is located.
I remember in my frequent visits to Cebu and Bohol then that the first big bridge across the Mactan Channel was the Mactan-Mandaue Bridge, or what we locals often called the Osmeña Bridge, a truss bridge constructed and opened back in 1972. It connected both islands through Mandaue and Lapu-lapu City, and it was properly adequate for the vehicular density of the time.
Then as commerce and development expanded in the province, so too did the need for a new big bridge, to decongest traffic on the Mactan-Mandaue Bridge. Thus, the Marcelo Fernan Bridge was opened in 1999, a magnificently beautiful cable-stayed bridge inaugurated by no less than my former boss, then President Joseph Ejercito Estrada. I was there when that bridge was opened to the public, and I recall waxing nostalgia about it as I remembered the days when we would cross the Mactan Channel by ferry. The Fernan Bridge was one of the longest and widest bridges in the country and, to this day, I still marvel at its architectural beauty.
Of course, Cebu and the region still grew by leaps and bounds, so much so that the two big bridges across the channel were never enough. A new and bigger bridge was needed.
Recently, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte led groundbreaking rites for the 8.25-kilometer Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway (“CCLEx”), the third bridge that would connect the Cebu mainland from the Cebu South Coastal Road to Cordova town on the southernmost tip of Mactan Island.
More than just a bridge, the project is said to be the largest single investment by a private company in the country today. The CCLEx is a project of the Metro Pacific Tollways Development Corporation (MPTDC), a unit under Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC). The bridge and its connecting roadways and ramps are expected to be completed by 2020 by MPTDC subsidiary, the Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway Corporation (CCLEC), which will likewise operate it.
The fast-tracking of the bridge project is in line with President Duterte’s directive to speed up implementation of high-impact infrastructure projects. The President likewise mentioned of a plan to create a network of bridges inter-connecting islands of the Visayas and Mindanao.
In his remarks made during the groundbreaking rites, Metro Pacific Chair Manuel V. Pangilinan expressed interest in undertaking other bridge projects in line with the President’s plan, like a bridge to connect Cebu mainland to the Bohol island province. That brought a smile to the faces of Cebu Governor Jun Davide and Bohol Governor Edgar Chatto. MPTDC President Rodrigo Franco likewise intimated that they were seriously considering a Light Rail Transit (LRT) project for Cebu.
The CCLEx is another sterling example of how the local government and the private sector act expeditiously to meet an urgent need. Credit for this project should also go to the mayors and sanggunian members of both Cebu City and Cordova town: the current administration led by Cebu City Mayor Tommy Osmeña and Cordova Mayor Techie Sitoy Cho; and the previous administration led by then-Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama and then-Cordova Mayor Adelino “Adi” Sitoy (now Presidential Adviser on Legislative Affairs and Head of Presidential Legislative Liaison Office or PLLO).
All these infrastructure projects under the Private-Public Partnership (PPP) framework could only augur good tidings for the people of Cebu and its neighboring provinces. With the combined strength of the DPWH and DOTr under the able leadership of Secretaries Mark Villar and Art Tugade, respectively, one could only foresee positive results happening in this regard.
To quote the immortal hope in Flora Purim’s song: “There’s a bridge to tomorrow, there’s a bridge to the past; there’s a bridge made of sorrow, that I pray will not last. There’s a bridge made of colors, in the sky high above; And I think that there must be, bridges made out of love…”