NEDA VIII welcomed representatives from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Headquarters and Philippine Office and the Bridges Management Cluster-Unified Project Management Office (BMC-UPMO) of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) during the latter’s courtesy call to the former on 20 March 2023 at the NEDA Regional VIII Office, Government Center, Palo, Leyte.  During said visit, the group discussed the potential socioeconomic outcomes of the proposed Second San Juanico Bridge (2SJB)

The JICA team, headed by Senior Deputy Director Yosuke Nishii of JICA’s South East Asia Division 5, expressed that the 2SJB project is viewed in a positive light by the Government of Japan. Thus, one of the key objectives of their current visit to Eastern Visayas is to understand the rationale and eventual socioeconomic role of the 2SJB in the region in preparation for the conduct of its full-blown feasibility study.

Engr. Norifel Teddie G. Cadiang, who led the BMC-UPMO DPWH team, also presented the proposed locations and typology of the 2SJB. He stated that the most suitable bridge typology for the 2SJB is an Arch Bridge, connecting the towns of Babatngon, Leyte and Sta. Rita, Samar.

NEDA VIII, led by Regional Director Meylene C. Rosales, thanked JICA and DPWH for these developments on the proposed 2SJB as it is one of Eastern Visayas’ priority programs within the 2023-2028 period. She shared that the existing San Juanico Bridge plays a critical role in transporting passengers and cargo, not only within the region but also from Luzon down to Mindanao and vice-versa.   As such, its closure in the case of irreversible deterioration will be detrimental not just to the people and economy of Eastern Visayas but also to the rest of the country. Director Rosales welcomed this significant progress on the proposed 2SJB project and emphasized its complementarity with other priority development projects in the region.

“It is a dream project of Region VIII. Way back in 2021, the Regional Development Council VIII – the highest policy-recommending body in the region – passed a resolution requesting the DPWH and JICA to conduct a full-blown feasibility study on the Second San Juanico Bridge and further request JICA for capital assistance for the project. We are hoping that this project will be realized and completed by 2028. It is of great timing since the RDC VIII is also proposing to conduct feasibility studies on other priority projects such as the Babatngon Transhipment Hub, the Modernization of the Tacloban Airport, and the Eastern Visayas Railway System, which will surely complement this 2SJB project.”

Fifty years since its opening in 1973, the existing 2.16-kilometer San Juanico Bridge faces deterioration and high maintenance costs. The proposed 2SJB will help alleviate traffic from the existing bridge and provide an alternative route in case of damage or deterioration.

Article and Photos by: Josefina Ballesteros (PMED)