When the Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3 opened late last year, motorists not only got a relief from the perpetual gridlock along the metro’s main thoroughfares. The new San Miguel Corp. tollway also gave a glimpse of how road travel could be in the next few years once the big-ticket projects under the government’s Build, Build, Build (BBB) program are completed.
These multi-billion road projects will not only cut travel time and move people and goods faster, but will also boost the growth of drive tourism which the government has been pushing long before the pandemic struck.
It is interesting to note that despite the nationwide lockdown last year and the recent modified enhanced community quarantine in the National Capital Region Plus, work on most flagship projects were largely unimpeded.
According to Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar, the DPWH hired 1,013 engineers to accomplish the BBB projects before the term of President Rodrigo Duterte ends in 2022.
While many of the high-profile projects are in Metro Manila and adjoining regions, Visayas and Mindanao are also host to a number of game-changers which will undoubtedly boost countryside development. Below are some of the key BBB infrastructure across the archipelago which are reshaping our motoring and travel way of life.
The second top metropolitan flagship infrastructure, the NLEX – SLEX Connector Road is a P 23.3-B 8 km. 4-lane elevated expressway built over the Philippine National Railway (PNR) right of way. Starting from the Circumferential Road 3 in Caloocan City, it cuts across Manila and connects to the Skyway Stage 3 so motorists can drive seamlessly from north to south, and cut drive time into half.
Harbor Link is a 5.58-km., 6-lane elevated tollway connecting C-3 Road 3 to McArthur Highway, using the existing PNR railroad tracks that cut across the cities of Malabon and Valenzuela. It provides access to the North Luzon Expressway without passing through the Balintawak Toll Plaza, and improves shipping cargo transport from the North and South Harbors in Manila to the provinces.
Central Luzon, a regional economic powerhouse, will receive a vital mobility boost with the opening of the 35.7-km, four-lane Central Luzon Link Expressway (CLLEX) next month. The P11.8-B toll-free road, will connect the cities of Tarlac and San Jose, passing through Nueva Ecija’s interior towns, and will boost agriculture and trade.
Up in the highlands is the 65-km Apayao-Ilocos Norte Road, a component of the Cordillera Roads Improvement Project (CRIP) which connects the Cordilleras and Ilocos regions. The P 3.67-B project which traverses Solsona, Ilocos Norte, and Kabugao and Calanasan towns in Apayao, will unlock the economic and tourism potentials of this province dubbed as “Cordillera’s Last Nature Frontier”.
Also completed recently were bypass roads in the two bustling northern cities—the 7.17-km Urdaneta in Pangasinan and the7.3-km roads in Candon, Ilocos Sur.
Cavite-Laguna Expressway (CALAX). A 45.3-km, P35.43-billion road with eight interchanges connecting the industrial enclaves, commercial estates, residential villages, and tourist destinations in the two bustling provinces in the Southern Tagalog Region. A unit of the Metro Pacific Tollways Corp., it will join the Manila-Cavite Expressway (CAVITEx) to the Mamplasan Interchange of the South Luzon Expressway (SLEx) in Biñan, Laguna, and slash travel time from 2.5 hours to 45 minutes.
Set to be completed next year is the SLEX Toll Road 4, a four-lane, 66.74-km expressway from Sto. Tomas, Batangas to Lucena City in Quezon, the longest project in Luzon. A P13.1-B undertaking of San Miguel Corp., it recently secured an approval from the Board of Investments as a new tollway operator. The six-section TR 4 will drastically slice travel time from three hours to just 45 minutes, and bring all the southern provinces closer to Manila.
Down in Sorsogon, Luzon’s southernmost province, the DPWH opened last year the 5.52-km, four-lane Sorsogon City Coastal Road and is currently upgrading the 30-km Matnog-Sta. Magdalena-Bulusan Road.
Taking shape in the country’s sugar capital is the 49.8-km Bacolod-Negros Occidental Economic Highway (BANOCEH) which is slated for completion by 2022. Running from Bacolod City to Victorias City, the P7.9-B project will enable motorists to drive seamlessly across Negros without passing through the congested provincial capital.
Nearing completion at the Queen City of the South is the 8.5-km 4-lane Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway (CCLEX), the third bridge connecting mainland Cebu and Mactan Island shown in the main photo. Developed by a Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. subsidiary, it aims to decongest the two bridges, and boost mobility and development in Cordova town, Mactan’s smaller half.
The soon-to-be-iconic landmark became part of the National Quincentennial Celebrations last April 15 when it lighted the symbolic crosses mounted on the bridge’s piers to mark the 500th anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines.
If Gen. Douglas McArthur fulfills his “I Shall Return” vow today at Leyte Gulf, he would be surprised by the Leyte Tide Embankment Project, which is part of the government’s rehabilitation and recovery program from Super Typhoon Yolanda. The coastal road covers 27.3 kms from Tacloban City to Tanauan town where the massive Allied Forces landed in 1944 to liberate the country from Japan.
Monikered as the “Land of Promise” for so long, Mindanao is host to some of the biggest infrastructure in recent memory. Among these is the 57-km Bukidnon-Agusan East-West Lateral Road which links the remote towns of Bukidnon and Agusan Del Sur.
A part of the connectivity plan between the Caraga and Northern Mindanao regions, this P 4.873-B corridor will facilitate the entry of economic opportunities and social services to the interior villages. It will also open up prospects for nature, adventure and cultural tourism, showcasing the rich heritage of the indigenous peoples.
Poised to be the country’s longest by 2023 is the 3.2-km Panguil Bay Bridge, a long-awaited infra which bridges Zamboanga Peninsula and Northern Mindanao regions which are dissected by the bay. With a price tag of P7.375 B, it runs from Tangub City, Misamis Occidental to Tubod, the capital town of Lanao del Norte.
Last but not least, the President’s hometown will not be outdone with the 44.6-km Davao City Bypass which cuts across the Davao-Digos section of the Pan Philippine Highway to the Davao-Agusan National Highway intersection in Panabo City, Davao Del Norte.
The two-phase project is composed of a road and tunnel sections, and widening of the 42.3-km bypass into four lanes.
With these proverbial roads to the future, we can drive more leisurely across the country for commerce, tourism, and other essential travels.
A true-blue day tripper since age 19, he has travelled across the archipelago by land, air, and sea. As a communications trainer, travel photojournalist, tourist mapmaker, scuba diver, environment advocate, or simply a family road tripper, he has imbibed the diversity of the Philippines by learning the basic way of life of the places he visits.