Bohol-Cebu Friendship Bridge awaits grant for feasibility study

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Briefing for Cong. Aris Aumentado by NEDA Deputy Director General Roland Tungpalan on the Bohol-Cebu Friendship Bridge and the Cebu-Leyte Bridge feasibility studies which start next year.

The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) clarified that a grant from the Chinese government is still being awaited for the feasibility study of the gigantic project of the Bohol-Cebu Friendship Bridge which was highly endorsed by NEDA during the state visit of Pres. Duterte to China last October.

NEDA clarified that the ambitious 17.5 kilometer Bohol – Cebu Friendship Bridge (BCFB) awaits the approval by the NEDA Technical Board  after it was reported by national and local media that the NEDA Board gave its approval to the project.

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Ernesto Pernia, NEDA Director General and Socio-Economic and Planning Secretary told the Chronicle in a text message that “It has yet to pass the NEDA Technical Board, then the ICC Cabinet Committee before hurdling the NEDA Board co-chaired by the President and NEDA Secretary (i.e., me).”

Pernia, who is a Boholano, confirmed to the Chronicle that the Chinese government has shown interest in supporting the project. 

Meanwhile, NEDA Deputy Director General Roland Tungpalan likewise personally briefed Rep. Aris Aumentado last Monday in Manila on the status of the project which was strongly endorsed by NEDA during the four-day state visit of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to China last  October 18-21, 2016.. Tungpalan told the solon that NEDA is awaiting a grant from China to finance the feasibility study for the Visayas bridge connection which includes the Bohol-Cebu Friendship Bridge.

NEDA 7 Regional Director Efren Carreon who was reportedly present during the “Bohol 2nd District Development Framework” meeting at Quest Hotel in Cebu City also said in a text message to the Chronicle that “the project is to be subjected to a feasibility study thus it has yet to be approved by the NEDA Board.”

According to Carreon, once the study is completed and “found feasible”, it will be presented to the NEDA-Investment Coordination Committee and to the NEDA Board for approval.

Keen observers on the progress of big-ticket projects in Bohol were elated when the news of the NEDA Board approval came out in the local, regional and national papers.

Some attributed the speed of the approval of the BCFB to one of NEDA’s reform initiatives to fast-track the appraisal and approval process by reactivating the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) which played a key role in the enactment of measures vital to development during the Ramos and Arroyo administrations.

2nd District Congressman Aristotle “Aris” Aumentado was quoted by the media that the BCFB has been approved by the NEDA Board and has been endorsed to the Chinese government for funding during President Duterte’s four-day state visit.

A Belgian company expressed willingness to invest $1 million for a feasibility study after findings by a proposed technical working group will be completed, according to Aumentado.

The announcement was made after a “Bohol 2nd District Development Framework” meeting at Quest Hotel in Cebu City attended by 2nd District Board Member Nino Rey Boniel, several 2nd district municipal mayors,  NEDA Regional Director Efren Carreon and Department of Agriculture Regional Technical Director for Research and Regulations Joel Elumba.

According to Aumentado, the NEDA Board approval will jumpstart the feasibility study and pre-engineering works as early as next year.

According to Antonietto “Boy” Pernia of the office of Aumentado, the project study has reached as far as the Investment Coordination Committee during the Arroyo administration.

Pernia, in reaction to the NEDA clarification said that a PhP8 million feasibility study grant for the proposed bridge from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) was included in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by former governor Erico Aumentado and Kim Jin Oh for bio-ethanol research and production in the seawaters off Talibon and Bien Unido.

The grant was eventually scrapped after a controversy erupted among stakeholders making their living in the areas covered by the seaweeds and bio-ethanol project and was dumped by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

Chinese and Belgian investors expressed serious interest in the bridge project even before the Duterte administration came in and even piqued the attention of Manuel Pangilinan, chair of Metro Pacific Investments Corporation, according to Pernia. 

A Belgian company expressed willingness to invest $1 million for a feasibility study after findings by a proposed technical working group will be completed, according to Aumentado.

Meanwhile, Governor Edgar Chatto told the local media during the weekly “Kita ug ang Gobernador” that the BCFB will be an integral part of the much larger proposed public-private partnership (PPP) bridge construction linking Negros Oriental to Cebu, Cordova to Getafe and Carlos P. Garcia to Maasin, Southern Leyte.

“The BCFB is not a stand alone bridge project but an important link between Cebu and Bohol. The BCFB is now on its first step in a long process towards its realization within the framework of the Visayas bridge project”, Chatto said.

With Boholano officials at the top of the helm in the Duterte administration, the BCFB will follow the path of the Php7.8 billion expanded New Panglao Bohol Airport which is scheduled to be completed in 2018. (Chito M. Visarra)  

 



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