Boracay Bridge Project Faces Hostility

mock-up Boracay Caticlan Bridge

Connecting Boracay Island to Caticlan, in the Western Visayas, sounds like an attractive idea. Boracay island suffers from slow connections especially for tourists arriving by flight into the island. A plan to build a 1.9 km bridge would connect Boracay Island to Aklan province has been proposed by Philippines conglomerate San Miguel Corp (SMC) which recently revealed its intention to spend US$100 million for the future infrastructure.

In an interview with the newspaper The Philippines Inquirer, SMC president Ramon S. Ang stressed that the local government could award the infrastructure project to any private sector partner. “We proposed the idea for them to bid out. For us, it’s okay if there are other bidders,” Ang declared to the newspaper.

The SMC conglomerate already controls Caticlan airport through an affiliate—TransAire Development Holdings Corp.—and the company is currently building a new air terminal at Caticlan airport while the runway has already been extended to accommodate larger aircraft. The new terminal is due to start operations this year. Apart from the airport upgrading, SMC is also involved in an investment of US$300 million for a three-star hotel, a convention centre, and a shopping mall with a row of seafood restaurants along the waterfront.

San Miguel highlights that a bridge could take some of the pressure over Boracay tourist facilities and also help to reduce waste on the island. Ang said the connectivity project would be for the convenience of tourists. “Boracay is now so congested and has a lot of sewerage problems,” he added.

However, according to local media, the bridge is mostly greeted skeptically if not with outright hostility. On social media the bridge is stirring debate among locals and tourists alike. Most fears are about the destruction of the natural beauty of Boracay once the bridge is built and opened. Some fear also that it would generate both traffic jams and pollution. Interviewed inThe Philippines Inquirer, designer PJ. Arañador, a business owner living on the island for more than 15 years, said that one of the main selling points of Boracay is its being an island resort that is accessible only through a short boat ride.

Many residents estimate that instead of spending US$100 million on a bridge, investors should better improve the boat transportation system or health facilities on Boracay island. Many believe also that narrow streets would not support a higher number of cars. Pro-bridge voices on the other hand believe that the bridge would reduce local population on the island as many workers could go back easily to the mainland at night. And that a bridge would also reduce pollution generated by boats.