I began writing this piece on Build, Build, Build while on my way back to Manila from Tarlac after inaugurating the first 18-kilometer segment of Central Luzon Link Freeway with President Rodrigo Duterte, Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar, Sen Bong Go, and Tarlac Governor Susan Yap. The Central Luzon Link Freeway, which connects Tarlac and Nueva Ecija within 20 minutes, is part of the Luzon Spine Expressway Network, a masterplan aimed at reducing travel time from the northernmost part of Luzon, Ilocos, to the southernmost part, Bicol, by over 50 percent via the construction of a 101-lilometer high standard highway network.
The event ended at about 8 o’ clock in the evening and we reached home a little before midnight. The following day, the call time was 5 a.m. Sec. Mark and I were going to Cebu to attend the inauguration of the 129-kilometer Metro Cebu bike lane network and inspect Philippines’ longest bridgeway — the 8.5-kilometer Cebu Cordova Link Bridge. This was our normal routine for the past five years. While it was not easy to sustain, we wanted to leave office knowing we gave it everything that we got.
To us, Build, Build, Build is an opportunity to leave the Philippines in a much better state than before. It was a chance to catapult our tiger cub economy to the trillion dollar club. Fate allowed us to venture into the gigantic task of making the lives of Filipino people more comfortable in 81 provinces. The President’s instructions were clear from the onset: Finish as many Build, Build, Build projects as possible in the soonest possible time. Whoever gets the credit is none of our business.
Five years since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed position, DPWH, under Secretary Villar, has completed a total of 29,264 kilometers of roads, 5,950 bridges, 11,340 flood control projects, 222 evacuation centers, 89 Tatag ng Imprastraktura Para sa Kapayapaan at Seguridad (TIKAS) projects, and 150,149 classrooms. Also, 653 COVID-19 facilities have been built under the Build Build Build program.
Moreover, the Department of Transportation (DOTr), under Secretary Art Tugade, has completed 214 airport projects, 451 commercial and social/tourism seaport projects, and the country’s first land port — the Paranaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX). Of the 29,264 kilometers of roads completed, 2,025 kilometers are farm-to-market roads, 94.99 kilometers are farm-to-mill roads, 1376.26 kilometers are missing links, 1,470.51 kilometers are bypasses or diversion roads, 149.65 kilometers lead to airports, 293.19 kilometers lead to seaports, 703.54 kilometers lead to economic zones and 2,436.40 kilometers lead to declared tourism destinations. A total of 3,122.73 kilometers were maintained, 4,686 kilometers widened and 3,591.96 kilometers rehabilitated and upgraded.
These include the NLEX Harbor Link Segment 10, the Cavite Laguna Expressway, the Tarlac Pangasinan La Union Expressway, the Laguna Lake Highway, the Candon City Bypass Road in Ilocos Sur, the Slaughter House Road in Davao City, the Pulilan-Baliuag Diversion Road in Bulacan, the Calapan-Roxas Road in Oriental Mindoro, the Mandaue Causeway Road in Cebu, the Dipolog-Oriquieta Road in Misamis Occidental, the Dumaguete North Road in Negros Oriental, and the TaytayEl Nido Road in Palawan. Of the 5,950 bridges, 1,366 were widened, 355 constructed, 1,805 retrofitted, 1,389 rehabilitated, and 297 replaced.
About 738 local bridges were also built.These include the Lucban Bridge in Cagayan, the Marcos Bridge in Marikina, the Sicapo Bridge in Ilocos Norte, the Pigalo Bridge in Isabela, the Anduyan Bridge in La Union, the Tallang Bridge along Cagayan, the Bolo-Bolo Bridge in Misamis Oriental, the Caguray Bridge in Occidental Mindoro, the Tinongdan Bridge, the Pasac-Culcul in Pampanga, the Aganan Bridge in Iloilo, the Maddiangat Bridge in Nueva Viscaya, and the Pigalo Bridge in Isabela. A total of 11,340 flood mitigation structures have been completed since June 2016 to expand protected flood-prone areas across the country.
These include the Mandaluyong Main Drainage Project, the pumping stations at Barangays Wawang Polo and Coloong, the Flood Risk Management Project for Cagayan River, the Flood Risk Management Project for Tagoloan River, the Leyte Tide Embankment Project, and the Pasig Marikina River Flood Control Project. To address the need for physical facilities required for elementary and secondary schools nationwide, Villar noted that a total of 150,149 classrooms were constructed while 17,647 classrooms are in various stages of implementation.
These include the National High School in Alaminos, Pangasinan, the Alejandra Navarro National High School in Davao City, and the Bagong Pag-Asa Elementary School. In the aviation and airports sector, the DOTr and its attached agencies have completed 214 airport projects under the Duterte administration, with 100 more ongoing. Completed projects include the Bohol-Panglao International Airport, the Mactan Cebu International Airport, the Sangley Airport in Cavite, the Lal-Lo International Airport, the Tacloban Airport, the Puerto Princesa International Airport, and the Ormoc Airport.
Domestic airports also underwent improvements. These include the gateways in Camiguin, Virac, and Tuguegarao. Meanwhile, ongoing airport projects include the Bicol International Airport, which was delayed for 11 years and is now more than halfway complete, as well as the second passenger terminal building of the Clark International Airport, the Davao International Airport, the Bukidnon Airport, Surigao Airport, and the Kalibo Airport.
Across the archipelago, seaports are being upgraded and rehabilitated to better serve the public. Currently, the DOTr has completed 451 commercial and social/tourism seaport projects, while 101 are ongoing. Notable port projects include the construction of the country’s biggest Passenger Terminal Building at the Port of Cagayan de Oro, and the rehabilitation of Opol Port in Misamis Oriental, Sasa Port in Davao, Butuan Port in Agusan Del Norte, Tubigon Port in Bohol, Limasawa Port in Southern Leyte, and Makar Wharf in General Santos. The country’s first barge terminal, the Cavite Gateway Terminal, which aims to reduce truck traffic on major roads and offer a cost-effective access to goods between Manila and Cavite through the waterways, has been built. On maritime safety, as of June 2021, we now have 564 out of 600 lighthouses operational nationwide.
For railways, DOTR has six projects with ongoing construction and one undergoing rehabilitation. In 2019, after 40 years and six administrations, the Metro Manila Subway, our country’s first underground railway system, finally started with site-clearing works at the Valenzuela Depot. Two out of the 25 massive tunnel boring machines are already in the Philippines for the start of the underground works within 2021.
This will reduce travel time between Quezon City and NAIA from one hour and 10 minutes to just 35 minutes. The much-delayed MRT-7, whose Concession Agreement was signed in 2008 but had nearly zero movement until 2016, is now 60.93 percent complete. This will reduce travel time between Quezon City and Bulacan from two to three hours to just 35 minutes. Approved by the NEDA Board in 2007 and stalled since 2009, the Common Station is now undergoing 24/7 construction, and is now 50.95 percent complete.
The Common station, which will connect MRT-3, MRT-7, LRT-1, and the Metro Manila Subway, will have the capacity to accommodate 500,000 passengers per day. The LRT-1 Cavite Extension, delayed for 19 years, finally started full-blast construction this year. This will reduce travel time between Baclaran and Bacoor from one hour and 10 minutes down to 25 minutes. The LRT-2 East Extension project is now completed and open to the public. The LRT-2 East Extension reduces travel time between Manila and Antipolo from two to three hours to just 40 minutes. The MRT-3, battered from years of poor and erratic maintenance, is now undergoing comprehensive rehabilitation with Sumitomo-Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan.
The Manila to Clark Railway, planned way back in 1993, is now undergoing full-blast construction with PNR Clark Phase 1’s first train set scheduled for delivery within the fourth quarter of 2021. This will reduce travel time between Tutuban and Malolos from one hour and 30 minutes to just 35 minutes. PNR Clark Phase 2, PNR Calamba, PNR Bicol, Subic-Clark Railway, and the Mindanao Railway are all in the pipeline, now under various stages of procurement and preconstruction works
Five years later: 5,950 bridges
According to the World Risk Report, inadequate and inefficient infrastructure and weak logistic networks significantly increase the risk for an extreme natural hazard to backslide into a disaster. The Philippines lies along the Pacific Typhoon Belt and is within the Pacific Ring of Fire. The geographic location of the country exposes it to natural hazards. In fact, in the 2017 World Risk Report, the Philippines ranked third among 171 countries in terms of risk associated to natural events and exposure to natural disasters.
Bridges in particular have been proven to be highly vulnerable. Since July 2016, DPWH has completed a total of 5,950 bridges, 1,389 of which were rehabilitated, 1,366 widened, 355 newly constructed, 297 replaced, and 1,805 retrofitted. Also built were 738 local bridges.
These include the replacement of the 365-meter Lisap Bridge along Calapan South Road Bongabong, Oriental Mindoro, connecting Barangay Lisap and Barangay Hagan, which was completed in February 2018, and the widening of the 650-meter Governor Miranda Bridge II, which serves as the main access of motorists from Davao City to other parts of the Davao Region.
The widening of the 140-meter Davao River Bridge (Ma-a Bridge) along the Davao City Diversion Road was also completed inApril 2018. Travel time has improved between Barangay Ulas and Barangay Buhangin by 62.5 percent from 80 minutes to 30 minutes, benefitting 31,576 motorists per day Moreover, the 8.5-kilometer Cebu Cordova Link Expressway (CCLEX) linking Cebu City and Cordova is already at 83.84 percent. When completed, it will be the longest bridge structure in the Philippines.
Metro Manila Logistics Network
In addition to the 30 existing bridges crossing the Pasig and Marikina Rivers and the Manggahan Floodway, which cater to about 1.30 million vehicles daily, 11 new bridges will be constructed in the area to provide alternative linkages between major thoroughfares and increase the number of usable roadways that would decongest traffic on Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) and other major roads in Metro Manila.
We have completed the feasibility of six bridges under the Metro Manila Logistics Network, including the North and South Harbor Bridge, the Palanca Villegas Bridge, the East West Bank Bridge 2, the Marcos Highway - St. Mary Avenue Bridge, Homeowner’s Drive - A Bonifacio Bridge, and Kabayani St - Matandang Balara Bridge.The BGC Ortigas Link Bridge, more popularly known as the Kalayaan Bridge, is now complete.
The four-lane bridge across Pasig River linking Lawton Avenue in Makati City, Sta. Monica Street in Pasig City, and Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, effectively reduced travel time by at least 80 percent — from one hour to only 12 minutes. The Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge, which connects Estrella Street in Makati and Barangka Drive in Mandaluyong, is also complete and is able to accommodate about 50,000 vehicles daily. The Binondo-Intramuros Bridge, which is now at 72 percent, will link Intramuros from Solana Street and Riverside Drive and connect to Binondo at the San Fernando Bridge.
DPWH is also implementing the Metro Manila Priority Bridges Seismic Improvement Project, which involves the retrofitting and reinforcement of the Guadalupe Bridge and Lambingan Bridge. Started in 2019, it is targeted to be completed by 2021. This will ensure the safety of about 365,000 motorists who use the Guadalupe Bridge and about 30,257 motorists who pass through the Lambingan Bridge every day.
Sofa in the drainage
Out of the 171 countries assessed in the 2016 World Risk Report, the Philippines ranked third most exposed to natural hazards. According to PAGASA, the Philippines is visited by at least 20 tropical cyclones every year. Last August 2018, heavy rains brought about by tropical storm Karding led to the evacuation of at least 50,000 individuals after Marikina River’s water level peaked at 20.6 meters (as compared to 23 meters during Ondoy).
During the clean-up operations that followed, I was surprised to see all sorts of garbage, from sofa to refrigerators inside our drainage canals — sediments that impede the natural flow of water. In the World Bank’s flood risk assessment study for the entire Metro Manila and Surrounding Basin Area, flooding was mainly attributed to three factors: (1) the huge volume of water discharge coming from the headwaters in the Sierra Madre mountains flowing downstream, (2) drainage capacity constraints in core area of Metro Manila, and (3) a heavily silted Laguna Lake.
The masterplan composed of 11 structural mitigation measures with an estimated cost of around P351 billion proposes to reduce the peak discharge of inflow equivalent to 3,600 m/s under a 100-year return period by about 75 percent by building a dam in the upstream portion of Upper Marikina River and constructing flood control structures along the priority critical sections of Pasig Marikina River. In May 2018, DPWH completed Phase III of the Pasig-Marikina River Channel Improvement Project (PMRCIP), which spans from the Lower Marikina River Improvement (Napindan Channel to the downstream of Manggahan Floodway) to Delpan Bridge. Revetments, parapet walls, dike embankment, sluice structures, and bridge foundation protection were constructed and installed along priority critical sections of the Pasig-Marinina River.
The civil works for Phase IV are currently ongoing and address the downstream of Mangahan Floodway to Marikina Bridge. This would also include the construction of the Marikina Control Gate Structure and will further decrease flood inundation by 7.5 percent. Apart from this, DPWH Secretary Mark Villar has adopted the Integrated Water Resources Management Program, which will complete and update the flood control and drainage master plans and feasibility studies of 18 major river basins (drainage area of more than 1,400 square kilometers), 421 principal river basins, and other critical river basins. Phase 1 of the Metro Manila Flood Management Project, which involves the modernization of drainage areas, reduction of solid waste in waterways, and participatory housing and resettlement, among others, has also started.
The Flood Risk Management Project for Cagayan, Tagoloan, and Imus Rivers, which expects to address the serious bank erosion in Cagayan, construct river dikes and drainage channel along Tagoloan River, and build two off-site retarding basins along Imus and Bacoor Rivers, have been completed. The Flood Risk Management Project in CDO River is now protecting 290 hectares and about 18,000 structures in Cagayan de Oro. Based on a 25-year flood return period, the number of people affected by flooding in the area will also be reduced from about 281,000 to only 31,000.Since its completion in 2020, the Integrated Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation Measures in the Low-Lying Areas of Pampanga Bay reduces flood depth from 1.4-2.9 meters to 0.6-1.4 meters and will shorten flood duration from 66 days to 17 days.
Other projects include the Cavite Industrial Area Flood Management Project, which mitigate the flood damage caused by the overflow of the San Juan River and the poor drainage system of the Maalimango Creek, and the Leyte Tide Embankment Project, a 31.28-kilometer flood control project, which will protect 27.30 square kilometers of coastal communities and 30,800 houses/buildings from the destructive effects of storm surges.
Connecting Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao via land travel
When I was still in elementary, my father, Manuel Lamentillo, would tell me about the San Juanico Bridge, a 2.16-kilometer bridge connecting the island provinces of Samar and Leyte. Whenever we would go home to Iloilo, I’d often wonder why we had to take boats or airplanes to travel to Negros Occidental. There were not many bridges at that time. The Candaba viaduct, a five-kilometer bridge connecting the provinces of Pampanga and Bulacan, is the longest bridge in the Philippines and it was built in 1976, over four decades ago.This will no longer be the case with the Duterte Administration’s Mega Bridge Project, a series of short and long-span bridges linking island provinces to eventually connect Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao via land travel.
According to Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar, the first project under the masterplan — the Panguil Bay Bridge, a 3.7-kilometer bridge connecting Tangub City in Misamis Occidental and Tubod in Lanao del Norte — will start construction within the year. Once completed in 2021, travel time between Tangub and Tubod will be reduced from 2.5 hours to only 10 minutes. It will also shorten travel time between Ozamiz City in Misamis Occidental and Mukas, Kolambugan in Lanao Del Norte from 2.5 hours (using RORO operations) to only 20 minutes.
27Cebu Cordova Link Expressway The Detailed Engineering Design of the Guicam Bridge in Zamboanga Sibugay, and three bridges in Tawi-Tawi — Nalil-Sikkiat Bridge, Tongsinah-Paniongan Bridge, and Malassa- Lupa Pula Bridge — are also included in the Improving Growth Corridors in Mindanao Road Sector Project (IGCMRSP). Civil works have already started. The preparation of the Feasibility Study and Detailed Design of these gamechanging high-impact projects, such as the 22-kilometer Bohol-Leyte Bridge, the 5.5-kilometer Negros-Cebu Bridge, the 24.5-kilometer Cebu-Bohol Bridge, the 18.2-kilometer Luzon (Sorsogon)-Samar Bridge, the 4.4-kilometer Davao-Samal Bridge, and the 28-kilometer Bataan-Cavite Inter-Link Bridge, are already being undertaken under the Infrastructure Preparation and Innovation Facility (IPIF) funded by ADB.
The Bohol-Leyte Link Bridge is a 22-kilometer bridge linking Bohol and Leyte provinces, which is expected to reduce travel time from three hours (using RORO) to only 40 minutes. The Negros Cebu Link Bridge is a 5.5-kilometer bridge linking Negros and Cebu, which is expected to reduce travel time from 40 minutes (using RORO) to only 10 minutes. The Cebu - Bohol Link Bridge is a 24.5-kilometer bridge linking Cebu and Bohol, which is expected to reduce travel time from two hours and 10 minutes (using RORO) to only 30 minutes. The Luzon (Sorsogon) - Samar Link Bridge is a 18.2-kilometer bridge connecting the Island of Samar in Eastern Visayas to the main island of Luzon (Allen-Matnog).
Travel time will be reduced from three hours and 20 minutes (using RORO) to only 40 minutes.The Davao-Samal Link Bridge is a one-kilometer bridge linking Island Garden City of Samal and Davao City. Travel time will be reduced from 26 to 30 minutes (using RORO) to only 2-5 minutes. The Bataan - Cavite Interlink Bridge is a 28-kilometer bridge connecting Mariveles in Bataan to Corregidor to Naic in Cavite. Travel time will be reduced from six hours to 45 minutes. Also, the pre-feasibility study and the feasibility study for the Panay-Guimaras-Negros (PGN) Island Bridge Project have already been completed under China financing. Since President Duterte assumed office in June 2016, DPWH has completed 5,950 bridges, 738 of which are local.