Ceboom and the bridges of Cebu country

I was in Cebu City last week to inaugurate a new extension office of Stronghold Insurance where I sit as its Chairman. It’s located in the bustling Cebu Business Park, now acknowledged as the heart of the city. It’s our 4th sales office in Cebu City and attests to the rapid business growth and booming economy of the place. The term “Ceboom” came about during the closing decade of the 20th Century when Cebu rose from economic stupor following a series of destructive typhoons, which ravaged the entire islands. Unable to get much needed relief from the national government, which was also reeling from the massive devastation brought by the calamities across the archipelago, the Cebuano political and business leaders joined hands to revive and develop the economy.

Investors came in to rebuild and modernize the infrastructure; construction projects mushroomed around the city, roads were widened, bridges were repaired and commercial areas were developed. The Cebu Business Park was set up in 1994, bringing in more business establishments and outlets to the city. Led by the giants in the retail industry, SM and Ayala Malls made Cebu City a shopping paradise for the people in the region and a magnet for business offices.  

Now Cebu Business Park, a sprawling 50-hectare mixed used development, is a crowded business district that boasts of first class establishments such as banks, hotels, shopping malls, restaurants and bars, business offices, residential and office condominiums and all kinds of amenities of modern living. It houses several companies, both local and foreign, which employ tens of thousands of workers. It is the home to thousands of condo dwellers that treasure a lifestyle of urban living near work and recreation. Simple and affordable dwelling accommodations are available, together with premium and luxurious flats where only the wealthy and the mighty can stay.  

It’s safe to observe that the level of infrastructure defines the progress of a place. Infrastructure is critical to its economic development. Without good roads, transportation and communications systems, hospitals and ports, schools, among others, the economy will not move and the place will remain stagnant. In the case of Cebu, the bridge systems spanning across the Mactan Channel is a valid barometer. There are three bridges that connect the islands of Cebu and Mactan. The first is the Mactan-Mandaue Bridge, which is officially renamed  Serging Veloso-Osmeña Jr. Bridge. It was named after the son of the Grand Old Man of Cebu, President Sergio Osmeña  Sr., and the father of former Senator Serge Osmeña III. He served as mayor of Cebu City for several terms and governor of the Cebu province. He fought President Ferdinand E. Marcos in the 1969 presidential election but lost. The bridge was only officially renamed after Serging Osmeña on June 2, 2022 when it lapsed into law after President Rodrigo Duterte failed to sign the bill renaming the Mactan-Mandaue Bridge. The bill, HB No. 05997, was authored by Rep. Raul del Mar of Cebu City. Curiously enough, the construction of the bridge was initiated by Cebu Governor Rene Espina, then serving as the secretary of Public Works, Transportation and Communications under President Ferdinand E. Marcos. Construction of the bridge started in 1970 before the Martial Law and was inaugurated on July 4, 1973 after Martial Law was declared in 1972. However, as early as April 2013, the local Mactan- Cebu Bridge Management Board had renamed the bridge to Sergio Osmeña, Jr. Bridge to honor its favorite son, but it took years to enact legislation to formalize it.  

The second bridge spanning the channel is called the Marcelo Fernan Bridge, named after another famous son of Cebu City. This bridge connects Mandaue City to Lapulapu City and was built to decongest the traffic from the Serging Veloso-Osmeña, Jr. Bridge. Marcelo Fernan is the only Filipino to serve as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and as Senate President of the Philippines. He was the running mate of Speaker Ramon V. Mitra when the latter ran for president in the 1991 presidential elections, but both of them lost to Fidel V. Ramos and Joseph Estrada for president and vice president, respectively.  It was formerly called Consolacion Bridge after the name of the town where one end of the bridge is located. Its construction started in 1996 and opened to traffic on August 3, 1999 during the administration of President Ramos. Its construction was funded with the help of the Japanese government.  

The third bridge connecting Cebu and Mactan islands is the recently completed Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway or more commonly known as the Cebu-Cordova Bridge. It is 8.9-kilometer sea-crossing toll bridge expressway, which surpasses the length of the famous 2-kilometer San Juanico Bridge between Samar and Leyte. The CCLEX links Cebu City and the municipality of Cordova in Mactan. The construction of this bridge was first proposed by Mayor Adelino Sitoy of Cordova and strongly supported by the LGUs of Cebu City and Cordova. The Regional Development Council of Region VII led by its Chairman Mike Rama, now city mayor of Cebu, supported the proposal. Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation headed by Manny Pangilinan adopted the project and proposed it to the Aquino administration, which approved and initiated it during his term. Cebu City and Cordova awarded the projects to Metro Pacific. Construction of the bridge began on March 2, 2022 and was inaugurated by President Rodrigo Duterte on April 27, 2022, a historic date commemorating the 501st Anniversary of the Battle of Mactan. I met the president and general manager of the Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway Corporation, a subsidiary of MPTC that manages the toll bridge, Allan Alfon. He said that the toll bridge generates a healthy revenue for the company. It serves not less than 50,000 vehicles daily. He proudly claimed that the bridge provides safe and convenient travel to its users and is fast becoming a main tourist attraction in the region. More importantly, it will spur economic growth and invite more investments in Cebu. The project’s total cost was P33 billion, more or less.

Just like the two older bridges crossing the Mactan Channel, the opening to traffic of the Cebu-Cordova Bridge, if I may borrow the words of MPTC Chairman Manny Pangilinan, “will bring in more investments, stimulate trade and commerce, revitalize tourism, and give a collective sense of pride among its people.” Well said, MVP. The Cebu-Cordova Bridge is truly the Gilas Pilipinas. I hope you will do more similar projects in other parts of our country. 

And the physical infrastructure is not the only healthy sign of a resurging Cebu. Recent announcement by hizzoner, Mayor Mike Rama, to tap the services of and/or consult with tried and tested public servants like former Senator Frank Drilon, former Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson, former DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu and others to sit in the premier city’s advisory council is very encouraging. This is in line with Mayor Rama’s vision to transform Cebu City into another Singapore. In making the appointments, Mayor Rama has disregarded political color and built bridges across various political camps in pursuing his great vision for his beloved city.