The government is reviewing a massive Manila Bay flood control and expressway proposal backed by conglomerate San Miguel Corp., according to the head of the Department of Public Works and Highways.

Among the considerations were the technical requirements and the environmental impact of the P400-billion project, Public Works and Highways secretary Mark Villar said in a recent interview.

“It’s still under study because it’s a massive project,” Villar said.

He noted that they were receiving assistance from the World Bank.

“It’s under technical study by Neda (National Economic and Development Authority) right now,” Villar added.

The project, involving a combination of flood control barriers and a Metro Manila to Bataan toll road, with a 50-year concession period, would be pursued by its private sector proponent, Coastal Development Consortium.

The project, dubbed the Manila Bay Integrated Flood Control, Coastal Defense and Expressway Project, would help combat typhoon waves in the northern part of Manila Bay, improve road access and spur economic growth north of the capital district, the DPWH said.

It was first proposed by New San Jose Builders Inc. in 2013, before SMC subsidiary San Miguel Holdings Corp. entered in 2015. The proponent’s name at that stage was changed to the current Coastal Development Consortium.

The proposal made little progress in those years, given the Aquino administration’s bias against unsolicited proposals. That changed when the Duterte administration reversed this policy.

Based on the timeline, a city flood control project in offshore Navotas City would be implemented from 2018 through 2021 while a coastal sea barrier in Manila Bay covering Bulacan, Pampanga, and Bataan would be built from 2022 through 2025.

Those projects account for bulk of the project cost: the flood barrier needed an “upfront investment” of P60.84 billion while the coastal barrier required “up to” P237 billion.

The expressway project, which would provide direct access to Bulacan and Pampanga, would cost around P40.36 billion and would be implemented from 2021 through 2032.

According to the DWPH’s indicative timeline, a Swiss challenge could be launched by the first quarter of 2018, assuming the project was approved by President Duterte.

A reclamation aspect was mentioned by the DPWH, but spending details were not yet available.

Ambitious flood control projects to protect Metro Manila and nearby provinces have been pursued in the past.

Notable projects included the P123-billion Laguna Lakeshore Expressway Dike, which was bid out early this year but was declared a failed auction after interested participants pulled out, citing its high-risk and complexity.

02 January 2017
By Miguel R. Camus