By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Grace Poe on Friday questioned the government’s plan to push through with the closure of the Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge on January 19 despite public outcry and claims that it will worsen the woes of thousands of motorists.
Poe prodded the government to reconsider the scheduled closure of the bridge linking Makati City and Mandaluyong City for its reconstruction and development until 2021.
The chair of the Senate Committee on Public Services said the bridge is still “perfectly-working” and the government lacked an “effective traffic mitigation plan”, particularly on alternate routes, before rolling out the reconstruction project reportedly worth P1.3 billion.
The bridge, which was initially closed September last year, was scheduled to close anew on January 12 but was postponed to January 19 to give the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority enough time to prepare for the rerouting.
She also questioned the need to widen the two-lane bridge to four lanes when both ends leads to two-lanes roads, thus creating bottlenecks.
“This is a major link through which 100,000 vehicles pass daily. Close it and it will worsen the situation in that parking lot called EDSA,” Poe said in her statement.
Poe also raised an eyebrow on the project funding by China Communications and Construction Corporation, an entity already flagged by the World Bank.
The state-owned firm was banned by the World Bank in 2009 for anomalies in connection to several multi-billion-peso Philippine road projects it had funded.
“To add insult to injury,” Poe said, the Chinese contractor “is the same state-owned firm assigned to reclaim land in the West Philippine Sea.”
“This is a case of a bridge we may not need, whose construction will inconvenience many for a long time, and is being built by a company who after being banned by the World Bank for bungling a road project here became part of the massive land reclamation in the West Philippine Sea,” the senator said.
Poe said officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways, should respond to the “valid” concerns and observations of affected motorists, residents and businesses.
She said these would have been threshed out if the public consultations were done by the government before accepting China’s offer to reconstruct the bridge.
“It appears that we were lured into accepting this gift without asking ourselves if we need it and if the inconveniences it would cause are worth it. It appears that there was no independent cost-benefit analysis done,” Poe observed.
Poe, however, stressed that she is not being “anti-development” in criticizing the plan.
“Ang gusto lang natin maayos at hindi makakasama sa atin. ‘Yung hindi donor-driven, may people’s consultation, at sapat ang feasibility study (What we want is that it is implemented properly, that it would not cause us further damage. That it’s not donor-driven, that there is people consultation and enough feasibility study),” Poe said.