Wednesday, August 21, 2019
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Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge: China P1.2 billion vs Austria P300 million

Dear DPWH,

We really need to talk. I think I speak for the vast majority of affected road users and taxpayers when I say that we desperately need you to postpone and reconsider the scheduled demolition of the Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge (Rockwell to Mandaluyong) this Saturday. At least until we have a few things clarified. Please lang. This affects too many people to just pass off as a “contribution to our quest to spur vibrant economic activities through an efficient and reliable road transportation network” We need more than that. We need details. We need assurances. We need real-world solutions. We need alternatives. And above all, we need a convincing explanation as to why this even needs to be done. We are the ones sacrificing, after all. We are also the ones paying. So it is the very least you can do. I really don’t think it’s too much to ask.




As time is of the essence, I won’t waste my words and I’ll just get straight to the point. Our biggest concerns as road users and tax payers are:

    • The need. There is no public demand to rebuild the bridge at all, if anything, the public appealed for the reopening of the bridge following its abrupt closure. Not because we don’t understand the sacrifices we need to make for growth, but because this is an unnecessary amputation of a perfectly healthy vital organ. The fact that the Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge was inaugurated in 2011 makes it younger than most of the vehicles that traverse it. Why does it need to be demolished? Not only has it not been proven to be structurally unsound, but it was constructed using Austrian public funds as part of a project that built 19 weather-resistant bridges in the Philippines. Wouldn’t demolishing their bridge in order to reconstruct a new Chinese-funded bridge burn our bridges (pun intended) with the Austrian government (and possibly other countries) and reflect negatively upon DPWH, and the Philippine government as a whole?
    • The 30-month construction time: Loosely translated, that’s 100,000 cars a day that need to find a new way for a 1000 days. In the most densely populated city on earth. Think about that for a moment. How will this be managed? Especially since there’s also a scheduled rehab of the Guadalupe bridge this coming April to address cracks and structural integrity. So far, we have not seen any viable rerouting schemes. And at the risk of sounding terribly skeptical, I’m not convinced any exist. Where will everyone go? Dan Brown already described Manila as the gates of hell; this just gives us all a resident’s sticker.
    • The cost: P1.229-billion from China? The current one was a P300 million loan from the Austrian government.
    • The logic. I’m not a civil engineer or urban planner. But have you conducted any studies of the option of widening it? Like the Sales Bridge in Nichols? Or how about just picking a new spot in the same area and have two bridges instead of one? Because 30 months of closure to replace a perfectly good bridge when we could literally build an additional one with little to no disruption at all seems like the logical choice from where I’m typing.



  • The Bottlenecks: DPWH claims that the new bridge can accommodate 1.3 million cars— which is great, except that the roads surrounding the bridge will be like the entrances to a Black Friday sale since the new four-lane bridge will still lead to Barangka Drive, is still a two-lane road.
  • Your contractors: If it is indeed true that the partners for this reconstruction project are CCCC Highway Consultant Ltd. and its subsidiary China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), these two Chinese companies have been blacklisted by the World Bank for fraudulent practices in another infrastructure project, the Philippines National Roads Improvement and Management Project. How is this ok now?
  • Right of way: Infrastructure projects are often plagued with right of way issues, as in the case of another DPWH project, the NLEX-SLEX connector road, whose construction has been blocked by challenges in right-of-way acquisitions. Considering that the construction of the road has not yet begun even two years after the contract was awarded to the contractor, how are we assured that the contractors for the Estrella- Pantaleon Bridge reconstruction project have acquired all necessary rights of way? We need to see this before construction starts. Because without that, the closure of the bridge this early is premature, unnecessary and will only prolong the 30-month ordeal.

For the record, these are not my questions. This is a summary of all the concerns shared with me by affected road users and taxpayers. And all we are asking is that you pause for a moment and take time to read it thoroughly and then explain it to us, the actual stakeholders, so we can both decide whether it is worth the pain or if there’s a better alternative. I’m simply giving you an opportunity to connect to the people that actually matter. Or building a bridge, if you will. Please don’t burn it.

BY JAMES DEAKIN