Timeline: The Panay-Guimaras-Negros Island Bridges Project

If you are an Ilonggo, then the long narrative of the major islands of Western Visayas getting connected by long-span bridges has grown with you. In fact, several administrations since the Fifth Republic have chipped in into the wish of Ilonggos of having a truly connected region.

Recently, there were several news outlets which somehow got a little excited as we all do and mentioned that the Panay-Guimaras-Negros (PGN) Bridges would allegedly begin procurement activities for the construction by the end of the first quarter of 2023.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Region VI was quick to respond and put clarity on this matter stating that the construction of the PGN Island Bridges Project will start in 2025 only upon the completion of the Detailed Engineering Design (DED) and approved for funding and implementation by the Investment Coordination Committee and the NEDA Board.

The PGN Island Bridges Project, at current estimates, would cost around PHP189.53 billion. To put in context, this is about 20 percent of the gross regional domestic product (GRDP) of the Region in 2021. The GRDP is a measure of the regional economy taking into account the gross value added of all producers in the region.

To give clarity, here are some important dates of the PGN Island Bridges Project with corresponding references:

  • 1999

    First Conception. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) funded the feasibility study of the bridges project. They commissioned Katahira and Engineers International and the Yachiyo Engineering Co., Ltd. to undertake the study in coordination with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). At that time, it was estimated to cost PHP53 billion. The bridges had a cumulative length of 23.19 kilometers with Panay-Guimaras bridge at 2.59 km in length and Guimaras-Negros Bridge at 20.60 km.

  • 2004

    Strong Republic Nautical Highway. In the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan 2004-2010 under former Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the realization of the PGN Island Bridges Project was shelved with the shift of prioritization towards establishing more economical connectivity through the establishment of Roll On-Roll Off (RORO) Ports. The PHP40 billion RORO network included the region through the Western Nautical Highway or the Strong Republic Nautical Highway.

    Among the major projects included the development and/or upgrading of the following infrastructure:

    • Bacolod-Iloilo RORO
    • Iloilo City-Passi-Calinog-Ivisan-Kalibo-Nabas-Caticlan Road
    • Iloilo East Coast-Capiz Road
    • Aklan-Mindoro Oriental RORO
  • 2006

    Guimaras Oil Spill. Although unrelated to the construction of the bridges, the historical event that happened along the bodies of water between Panay, Guimaras, and Negros was the Guimaras Oil Spill. This event which happened in the 3rd Quarter of 2006 left 245 kilometers of coastline, 16 square kilometers of coral reef, 1,128 hectares of mangrove, and 1,143 hectares of marine reserve covered with oil. Over 17,000 people were affected.

  • 2010

    Cheaper costs than before. In reports, the DPWH released an estimate much lower than the 1999 estimate done by JICA. With a new alignment spanning only a total of 13.16 kilometers, the project cost slimmed down to PHP28.5 billion. The Panay-Guimaras bridge at 2.60 km length will cost PHP9.4 billion while the Guimaras-Negros bridge at 9.56 km, PHP19.1 billion.

  • 2012

    New hope for PGN. Then Iloilo City Lone District Representative and current Mayor Jerry Treñas initiated the issuance of House Resolution No. 2018 asking late former Pres. Benigno Aquino III to prioritize the realization of the PGN Island Bridges Project. This move was also supported by lawmakers in Western Visayas as well as close neighbor, Negros Oriental.

  • 2017

    Infrastructure Flagship Projects. Renewed diplomatic relations of the Philippines and the China also saw a renewed hope for the PGN Island Bridges. With only 18 projects proposed to be funded under Official Development Assistance (ODA) by China, the island bridges now cost USD541.04 million.

    In April, then Pres. Rodrigo Duterte launched the Build Build Build Program. The PGN Island Bridges Project was among the 44 in the initial priority list.

    In a separate report of the United Nations Economic and Social Commissions for Asia and the Pacific dated July 2017, the DPWH and the Department of Transportation (DOTr) were noted for their shortfalls in disbursement as well as backlogs. This implied that projects with a large scale as the PGN Island Bridges would face risks of delays.

  • 2019

    China-Funded Feasibility Study. The People’s Republic of China commissioned state-owned CCCC Highway Consultants Co., Ltd. to conduct yet another feasibility study of the PGN Island Bridges Project. The feasibility study is in support of the Duterte Administration’s Build Build Build Program.

    In August, an incident in Iloilo Strait claimed 31 lives after several pump boats capsized due to a freak weather occurrence.

  • 2020

    COVID-19 challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic gravely affected the implementation of infrastructure projects in the Philippines. This did not spare the multi-billion-peso bridge project with China backing out to support the project. Former Sen. Franklin Drilon shared that China was no longer interested in funding the project, possibly due to the pandemic.

  • 2021

    Korea steps in officially. The Korean government took over and conducted supplemental feasibility study for the PGN Island Bridges Project. Undersecretary Emil Sadain of the DPWH shared that the Koreans committed ODA loan to the Philippines through the Economic Development Cooperation Fund of the Korea Export-Import Bank.

    The NEDA Board ICC approved the supplemental feasibility study in August 2021.

  • 2022

    Korea-funded Engineering Services. The Korean government extended USD56.6 million in loan for the engineering services of the PGN Island Bridges Project in May 2022. The assistance will support the preparation of preliminary design, detailed engineering design, and procurement assistance prior to the construction of the bridges.

    DPWH Sec. Bonoan and Usec. Sadain sit and officials from South Korea. (PIA Photo)

    The DPWH in November announced that they are targeting to commence the DED activities on the first quarter of 2023.

    The Regional Development Council VI approved the PGN project at a cost of PHP187.53 billion during its 3rd Quarter Meeting in October 2022. The completion of the bridge is targeted in 2030.

  • 2023

    Awarding of DED, not construction. The NEDA, in a press release, shared that the DED component will be awarded in March. Further, it clarified that the construction of the project will start by 2025 after the completion of the DED and the approval of the funding and implementation by the NEDA Board and the ICC.

Based on the recent developments, the realization of the project has gone already gone this far. Thus, every Ilonggo is very hopeful that this would materialize and who knows, Negros or Guimaras would be a drive away.

Published by Ilonggo Engineer

Ilonggo Engineer or Ray, is a civil engineer and a writer who strongly advocates for road safety, technology literacy, and social equity.

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