THE province of Oriental Mindoro is an island that suffers from unstable electricity supply, destructive floods, lack of clean and potable water, lack of cold storage for produce, and it takes an average of 3 to 4 hours to travel from Manila to Batangas to Calapan City. Logistics and supply chain is necessary for the province to grow and since Occidental Mindoro shares a common border with Occidental Mindoro, responding to these issues in the next six years is critical for the development of Mimaropa.

Mimaropa is one of two regions having no land border with another region. The other is Eastern Visayas. So, interconnection is an economic infrastructure solution to unleash its potential. Mimaropa is composed of the two Mindoro islands, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan. These islands are tourist destinations and agricultural provinces. Linking Batangas and Oriental Mindoro is linking Mimaropa to one of the three biggest regions in the country, Calabarzon. The potential is big if a bridge is constructed since people can use the bridge and RoRo can be maintained for produce, creating an intermodal means. The bridge can cut down the travel delays due to RoRos that do not follow their schedules of departure from the Batangas pier to Calapan City pier and back.

The provinces of Batangas, Oriental and Occidental Mindoro have been planning for the so-called floating bridge to connect the provinces of Batangas and Oriental Mindoro since 2011, but the plan had been hatched as early as the 1970s under the first Marcos administration. Although in the planning stages and with a feasibility study, funding of the proposed bridge is yet to be finalized.

IMAGE FROM DPWH
IMAGE FROM DPWH

Touted to be the first floating bridge in Asia, the Batangas-Mindoro Bridge will have high ship passage on its pontoons and pedestrian and bicycle lanes. The bridge will be also designed to withstand typhoons with winds up to 350 kph (220 mph). This project was included in the Build Build Build program of former president Rodrigo Duterte and is now included in the Build Build More of the current Marcos administration.

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The project is supposed to maximize the current position of Mindoro island as "Luzon's Gateway to the South" to the island provinces of the Visayas and the Mindanao region through opening roads to faster and efficient transport of goods and people along the existing Nautical Highway. It seeks to cater to the increasing demand for expansion and optimization of basic industries or utilities like water, power, oil and telecommunication companies. It is targeted to boost agriculture and ecotourism in the area and neighboring jurisdictions as a spillover of economic activities.

The floating bridge will cover the 8.5 kilometers from Mindoro Island to Verde Island and 6.5 km from Verde Island to Batangas, over a 10 to 300 meter water depth. The design was adopted to avoid damaging the seabed of the Isla Verde Passage, considered as a world center of biodiversity. The cost of the construction of the 14-km-long bridge is P18 billion and will take five years to build. The first part will span 6.4 km from Barangay Ilijan in Batangas City to Verde Island. The second component spanning 4.4 km will continue from Verde Island to Barangay Sinandigan in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro.

Records from the National Economic Development Authority Investment Coordination Committee (NEDA-ICC) show that the Mindoro-Batangas super bridge is included in the Department of Public Works and Highways' list of 10 projects that are highly considered as keys to improving connectivity that will facilitate movement of people and cargo. The report also said that the super bridge has been put under feasibility studies together with the Batangas City-Bauan, Batangas Toll Road project and Pacific Eastern Seaboard Expressway.

When then candidate Bongbong Marcos visited Oriental Mindoro during the campaign period, Marcos said the ambitious bridge project would further usher the development of the two provinces of Oriental and Occidental Mindoro and neighboring provinces in the Mimaropa region and he committed to include it in his list of priorities.

In getting it done, two representatives of the 19th Congress filed on July 1 and July 28, respectively, House Bills 916 and 2729. The former was filed by Batangas Fifth District Rep. Marvey Mariño and the latter by Rep. Alfonso Umali of the second district, Oriental Mindoro.

House Bill 916 declares the Verde Island Passage marine corridor as a maritime protected area and an ecotourism zone, creating the Verde Island Passage Management Board. House Bill 2729, on the other hand, declares the Verde Island Passage as a marine protected area and an eco-tourism zone. Clearly, the policy environment is moving to protect the Verde Island Passage and commit to moving the infrastructure project forward. Before, it was an issue but today, the plan adjusted to the marine corridor.

Government does not have to prepare a long list of infra projects. Consider those with strategic gains and certainly, an archipelago has to be linked to ensure logistics and supply chain as well as intermodal travel. Oriental Mindoro opened a cheaper link to Boracay through bus-RoRo-bus starting from Manila, traveling to Batangas pier by bus. The bus takes the RoRo and lands in Calapan City, traveling to the once rural and small Roxas (today it is the gateway to the Visayas and Mindanao regions via the Western Nautical Highway) to Caticlan, then Boracay, and vice versa.

Let us make nation-building a people's movement. This is the challenge of this administration and the generation that is the base on the belief that the Marcos brand will see through what was started then, sidelined after and now back in stride.