Press Release
October 15, 2020

Drilon grills DPWH over slow progress on Panay-Guimaras-Negros bridge

Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon pressed the Department of Public Works and Highway (DPWH) to fast-track the construction of the proposed Panay-Guimaras-Negros bridge.

This as Drilon expressed frustration over the slow pace of progress on the PGN bridge that will connect the three major islands in Western Visayas.

"This is very frustrating. We have been pushing for this project - all of us, the people of Panay, Guimaras and Negros. But it is just like a business-as-usual for the DPWH," Drilon lamented.

"The proposed Panay-Guimaras-Negros bridge is a dream of the people of Region 6 that remains to be fulfilled. We hope to make it happen during this administration," he stressed.

Public Works Secretary Mark Villar told Drilon during a Senate hearing on the agency's proposed 2021 budget that the PGN bridge is a "worthwhile project" and vowed to do "as fast as they can" to start its construction.

Undersecretary Emil K. Sadain said the 32-kilometer bridge is still among the priorities of the agency. Sadain explained that the review of the feasibility study by the Export-Import Bank of Korea (Korean Eximbank) will be completed by the end of November. Sadain added that it is also a major priority of Korean Eximbank.

The 32-km PGN bridge is composed of two phases: the Panay-Guimaras bridge which totals 13kms and the Guimaras-Negros at 19.37kms

China conducted the feasibility study but balked at financing the project. The government is now looking at the Korean Eximbank to finance the project.

Drilon pointed out that Korean Eximbank is the same bank that provided an Official Development Assistance (ODA) loan of around US $208 million for the construction of the Jalaur River Multi-Purpose Project.

It was Drilon who pushed for the JRMP II, the biggest single public infrastructure in the history of Iloilo and the biggest dam outside of Luzon.

Before his term ends in 2022, Drilon said he wants to see the realization of the dream of the people of Region 6 to have the PGN bridge constructed to enhance inter-connectivity and boost commerce and trade in the region.

The Ilonggo senator said he supports a review of the feasibility study initially done by the Chinese, citing his observations that the bridge is "grossly over-designed and expensive."

"I would call for a review. I found the bridge over-designed. It is really over-designed and dictated by the funder so that there will be more debt for a project which, to me, is overdesigned.," Drilon said.

He questioned why the Chinese feasibility study proposed for the building of a four-lane highway for a 32-km bridge. Drilon said the traffic will not justify a four-lane highway.

"It is very expensive. Hopefully we can review the design which will make it more feasible in terms of internal economic rate of return," he said.

Drilon urged the DPWH to provide a timeline.

"I am sharing the frustration of our people in Region 6. You cannot blame me if we try to get a more detailed commitment because I have seen this over the years where meaningful projects got stuck in the bureaucracy. Next year is my last budget hearing because my term will expire in 2022, I hope the DPWH can commit to the construction of the PGN bridge next year," Drilon said.

"Can I get a commitment from you that we can start the construction before the next DPWH hearing a year from now?" he told DPWH.

"We will do this as fast as we can... It is a worthwhile project," Villar assured Drilon.

Senate finance committee chair Sen. Sonny Angara proposed to DPWH to unbundle the project.

"As you can see, this project is very close to the heart of the minority leader," Angara told the panel.

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