By Arjay L. Balinbin, Senior Reporter
THE GOVERNMENT has obtained a commitment from Japan to support the construction of a second bridge linking Samar and Leyte, according to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) committed its support for the project at the most recent high-level meeting between the Philippines and Japan, Public Works Senior Undersecretary Emil K. Sadain told BusinessWorld last week.
“Nasa concept pa lang (It is still in the concept stage). It was committed to by JICA during the high-level discussions between the Philippines and Japan. It is going to be JICA-funded,” Mr. Sadain said.
The proposed project is a 1.24-kilometer bridge connecting Babatngon in northeastern Leyte to Sta. Rita, Samar, which is on the west coast of that island on the shoreline nearest Leyte.
The 2.16-kilometer San Juanico Bridge, which links Tacloban City, Leyte, and Santa Rita was completed in 1973 through Japanese official development assistance.
A Babatngon landing for the second bridge would place the crossing north of San Juanico bridge, which crosses the San Juanico Strait.
“Traffic cannot be properly addressed by one bridge; a second bridge has to be constructed to lessen the load,” Mr. Sadain said.
He said the second bridge, which has yet to undergo a full feasibility study, is among the priority projects of the Marcos administration.
JICA said in a report posted on its official website that it has conducted a pre-feasibility study with the DPWH on the project.
“Based on the result of the traffic demand forecast, the second San Juanico Bridge can accommodate 9,100 vehicles per day,” the report noted.
The existing bridge had daily traffic of 7,200 vehicles as of 2019, approaching its capacity of 10,000 vehicles, according to state-run Philippine News Agency.
A study is “suggested to explore the possibility of constructing a four-lane bridge, prioritizing a steel arch design, with a 50-year term and with the capability to carry a train load to serve as an alternate link to the San Juanico Bridge,” the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Region VIII said on its website.
The agency noted that the existing San Juanico Bridge has issues such as “aging and high maintenance cost.”
“We cannot repair the first one without building the second one,” DPWH’s Mr. Sadain said.
“We need to do some massive repairs, not just on the deck. I think we need to do some retrofitting work on the foundations all the way up to the superstructure,” he added.