THE Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has suspended the P4.2 billion Coron-Culion inter-island bridge project in Palawan amid mounting complaints that the project was given the go-signal to proceed despite non-compliance with the necessary requirements.
“I have suspended all construction activities and will only be resumed after securing all the regulatory compliances,” said DPWH Regional Director Yolanda Tangco on Thursday in a webinar hosted by Oceana, an international advocacy organization dedicated  to protect the world’s oceans.
The stop work order was implemented by virtue of a memorandum issued by the DPWH regional director on April 8, 2021.
Ground breaking of the project was made last March 6.
According to Tangco, she has also instructed the contractor to take action regarding mitigating measures for possible slide or erosion in the roadworks that might affect the shorelines in the location of the project.
The project was found deficient on the required feasibility study, impact assessment, no proper consultation with stakeholder, no endorsement from concerned local government units and no environmental clearance certificate, among others.
Tangco attributed the DPWH non-compliance to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The DPWH don’t have the intention not to follow regulations. I apologize. I did not expect that we were not able to comply [with the regulatory requirements],” she added.
Tourism stakeholders and indigenous peoples groups, among others, have also opposed the project because of its negative impact on their livelihood, environment,  bio-diversity and as well as its effect on the cultural  and  archaeological heritage of the island.
Former tourism secretary Nazarena Lim  was among those who expressed strong objection to the bridge project, saying that it would adversely affect the province tourism industry because tourists would want the area to remain pristine.
Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat also revealed that her office was never consulted by the DPWH.
Asked on who gave the go signal  for the project to proceed, Tangco said that she did not know, adding that she was only assigned as regional director recently and just implemented the project.
NEDA Regional Director Director Susan Subeling also cited similar reasons, but added that this was part of the budget proposal of DPWH in 2020.
Project consultant Architect Cathy Saldana said that the feasibility study is expected to be completed by July, adding that there is also a possibility of a realignment or alternate route to address environmental concerns.
“The bridge is not just a transport network, it is also a carriage way for power lines and water [line]. We assure that we will not destroy the environment,” Saldana added.
The proposed construction of  the  Coron-Culion inter-island bridges, which spans 2-.6-kilometer, consists of two long span bridges between  Lusong  Island and Marily Island, and between Marily Island and Culion Island with a road component of 12 kilometers.