Gov’t may opt for submarine Davao-Samal tunnel

NEDA 11 director Maria Lourdes Lim (left) and NEDA 11 assistant director Priscilla R. Sonido speak during Kapihan sa PIA Friday, 25 January 2019. MindaNews photo by ANTONIO L. COLINA IV

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 25 January) – The government is considering to construct a submarine tunnel to connect Davao City and Samal Island due to some geophysical limitations in Pakiputan Strait that might make the construction of a multi-billion bridge unlikely, National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) 11 director Maria Lourdes Lim said.

Lim told Kapihan sa PIA Friday that the construction of the submarine tunnel is among the options but added nothing is definite yet until the feasibility study undertaken by Over Arup & Partners Hong Kong LTD is completed in August this year.

She said the “study will assess the feasibility of the proposed connector, covering engineering, economic, social impact and environmental safeguards studies, including  the alignment and structural form based on technical, economic, environmental and social impacts” of the bridge project worth P10 billion.

The bridge is one of the major infrastructure projects of the Duterte administration that will get support from the Chinese government, People’s Republic of China Consul General in Davao City Li Lin said.

It is one of the 16 short and long span-bridge projects under the government’s flagship “Build, Build, Build” program to link the island provinces in Mindanao and Visayas to Luzon via land travel.

Among the difficulties cited are the height considerations since the location is within the flight path of aircraft and several large ships entering Davao Gulf, Lim said.

“There are various options to realize this project. This will not just be conventional bridge. Another option, by the way, is a construction of a tunnel, submarine tunnel. Let’s look forward to the conclusion of this feasibility study. Because of the physical limitations posed by Pakiputan Strait, the navigational as well as air clearances have to be met,” she explained.

She said the bridge has an approximate length of 1.8 kilometers across Pakiput Strait but added there are “approaches” from both sides that are being considered in the plan.

“There are several approaches being considered, several points — Davao side and Samal side. Several options. It’s not necessarily that the closest or shortest distance between Davao and Samal would give us the cheapest price tag. It’s not that. We are looking at this environmental implication, impact as well as these physical constraints,” she said.

Once completed, she said the feasibility study will be evaluated by the Department of Public Works and Highways and Regional Development Council 11. It will also undergo a review and appraisal process by the NEDA-Investment Coordination Committee.

“We need another probably six months to undergo that appraisal and approval process. The NEDA has turnaround time six weeks to evaluate the project, considering all documents and consultation processes have been completed,” she said. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)