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Samal-Davao Bridge imperils Paradise Reef

Republika

An environmental study revealed that the P23.04-million Samal Island-Davao City Connector (SIDC) Project may irreversibly damage the coral reefs at Pakiputan Strait in Davao Gulf, near the popular Paradise Island Beach and Resort owned by the Rodriguez family.

Paradise Island is a popular diver’s destination, thanks to the diverse marine life and healthy corals.

The study, commissioned by the Rodriguezes, showed that the proposed bridge would traverse an area with a rich marine environment. Natural Resources Management Consultant, Joey Gatus, one of the study’s leads, cited “massive sedimentation” that construction would cause, which the reef would not survive.

Ove Arup, the project’s engineering consultancy partner, produced a feasibility study just last year, stating that bridge construction and related activities, such as excavation and demolition, would result in “change in channel beds and impacts on fish and aquatic life.”

In response, the project’s backers promised to follow “best practices in proper construction” to keep environmental disturbance at a minimum, and use silt curtains to contain the sediments. Gatus said, however, that this fix would not be enough to cover coral reefs within a half-kilometer due to strong currents carrying sediments to a wider area.

It was recommended that the approval for the bridge’s landing site in Paradise Island be revoked and that Arup should “redesign and realign”. The researchers suggested instead Bridgeport, a former shipyard to be the construction site as it is the “least biologically productive” area. Should this not be feasible, the Rodriguez family offered to donate their Lomos Beach property for the project.

The family clarified that they are not against infrastructure, but maintained that progress should be sustainable, causing the least possible damage. Should the government dismiss their appeal to construct the bridge elsewhere, environmental lawyer and Sarmiento said they may well file a Writ of Kalikasan, which will inevitably delay the project.


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