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DPWH Southern Leyte defends viral 'bridge with no river'

MANILA, Philippines — Have you ever seen a bridge over land? For some, seeing one is a surprise.

An average photo of a national road in Paku, Bontoc in Southern Leyte made rounds on Facebook on April 16. What made it different from other national roads is that some netizens pointed out it is a "bridge with no river."

A report by Bicol Today, along with other netizens, suggested that the project is an evidence of graft and corruption as the bridge is built where there is no body of water to cross over.

Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) District Engineer of Southern Leyte Ma. Margarita Junia defended the project on her Facebook page:

"Please be informed that bridges are not constructed for rivers only. Overpass is a bridge, but there is no river underneath."

The original Facebook post by Lito Quesada about the bridge has since been deleted.

Prone to liquefaction

Junia told Rappler in a phone interview that particular section of Bato-Bontoc road has been rebuilt over and over in the past decades.

"It was first under construction around 1990s with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Ever since, that part of the road collapses," said the district engineer.

According to Junia, the section has collapsed about thrice already.

Their disctrict implemented measures to stabilize the soil under. She said they had to put numerous reblockings, soil embankment, and slope protection projects.

In 2012, the district consulted a geologist. They were advised that the soil under is made of very fine clay that tends to dissolve during heavy rains.

"That's why the road collapses everytime," she said.

Bridge as a solution

"Lagyan na lang ng tulay," (Let's just put a bridge) she told Rappler.

She cited Agas-agas bridge in Sogod, Southern Leyte as an example of a bridge that connected roads on two mountains.

 

Agas-agas bridge is the highest bridge in the Philippines which stands 84 meters high and 350 meters long.

"Dahil may faultline sa ilalim, iniwasan yung road way. Stable naman na siya."  (Because there is a faultline under, the road way was avoided. It's now stable.)

Philippine Volcanology and Seismology director Renato Solidum Jr told Rappler that the municipality of Bontoc is 13.8 km southwest of the Leyte Fault line. Within the vicinity are liquefaction-prone areas.

The 50-meter slab bridge project cost them about P20 million. The construction started in 2013 and was completed a year after. It was under the Philippine-Japan Highway Loan.

"There's girder, there's deck. It's a regular bridge. The soil under did not move. For 3 years, it has been okay," she added in a mix of English and Filipino. 

The district engineer said that constructing a bridge along that portion of the road saved them millions of pesos worth of road repairs, contrary to the netizens' speculation of graft.

She ended her Facebook post with a reminder: "Please do not connect to politics our infra works without asking facts." — Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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