Cagayan de Oro City

Technicalities halt plans to repair Cagayan de Oro’s longest standing bridge

Franck Dick Rosete

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Technicalities halt plans to repair Cagayan de Oro’s longest standing bridge

SUNSET. Cagayan de Oro's old and iconic Ysalina Bridge across the majestic Cagayan River during sunset as seen from city hall.

courtesy of Rhoel Chaves Condeza

The DPWH says it cannot proceed with undertaking major repairs because the iconic Ysalina Bridge has been programmed for demolition

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Plans for major repairs to strengthen Cagayan de Oro’s longest standing bridge stood at a standstill due to technicalities. The national government initially intended to demolish and replace the bridge with a new one, rather than repair it.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), which aborted the planned demolition, said the national government has already set aside P163 million and programmed the construction of a new bridge to replace the 78-year-old structure named after the late Paciencio Ysalina, who served as Misamis Oriental’s governor from 1951 to 1954.

The two-lane Ysalina Bridge, also known as Carmen Bridge after Cagayan de Oro’s most populous barangay, has long been planned for demolition. The DPWH saw it unfit for vehicular traffic due to severe weakening over the years from corrosion, noting holes and serious deformations in parts of the structure.

Local heritage conservationists protested the plan, arguing that the old bridge across the Cagayan River which has been serving as a major link between the eastern and western parts of Cagayan de Oro for decades, is historically important.

The present Ysalina bridge, constructed in 1946, underwent retrofitting efforts to repair corroded girders and trusses in 2005.

It is not the first steel bridge constructed in Cagayan de Oro, according to Antonio Montalvan II, a Cagayan de Oro historian. He said the first steel suspension bridge in Cagayan de Oro was the Puente del General Ramon Blanco, which collapsed on the day of its inauguration in 1890.

Lawyer Tony Velez of the Kagay-an Heritage Advocates said his group was pushing for the preservation and strengthening of the bridge’s foundation.

“If you need to do a project, you study for the betterment and not for the destruction. It’s right to do a project, but it’s wrong to demolish a living testament of the Kagay-anon people,” Velez told Rappler.

Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez said he “will continue to stand firm in protecting heritage sites and landmarks in the city” such as the Ysalina Bridge.

The Ysalina Bridge has been included among the city’s 17 historic properties in the local cultural inventory, which was established under Ordinance No. 2024-489 passed by the Cagayan de Oro Council on June 3.

The inventory has been endorsed to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) to form part of the Philippine Registry of Cultural Property.

In 2000, the city government, through City Ordinance 7301-2000, named the bridge after Ysalina to formally acknowledge the late governor’s contribution to the reconstruction of the bridge in 1947.

The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) has also recommended retaining the old Ysalina Bridge but suggested building another one with pedestrian and bicycle lanes.

In a November 9, 2023, letter to Cagayan de Oro Mayor Rolando Uy, the NHCP said its proposal “… is the favorable option for protecting the existing bridge but still addresses the need to decongest the traffic in the area.”

The NHCP said it presumes that the Ysalina Bridge is an important cultural property (ICP) that needs to be protected based on the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009.

It pointed out that historic sites dating 50 years and older are also presumed ICPs, which means that these “must be protected from any modification and demolition.”

The DPWH has withdrawn its initial plan to demolish the bridge following a public uproar but said their hands were already tied because the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) disapproved the project’s proposed amendment from replacement to major repair.

DPWH-Northern Mindanao Director Zenaida Tan said they cannot proceed with undertaking major repairs because the project was titled as a replacement.

Roshelle Novie Cabrido, DPWH information officer in Northern Mindanao, told Rappler that the DPWH will write to DBM again, while Rodriguez and Cagayan de Oro 1st District Representative Lordan Suan promised to help in pushing for a major rehabilitation project instead of demolishing the bridge to pave the way for the construction of a new one. –

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