Manila: Ramon S. Ang, a.k.a. "RSA", renowned as the Philippines' most ambitious billionaire, is poised to embark on yet another monumental bridge-building endeavour, this time in the southern provinces of Luzon.
The chief executive of San Miguel Corp. (SMC), one of the Asian country's biggest conglomerates, has recently revealed discussions with the local government unit of Oriental Mindoro and Governor Humerlito Dolor to initiate the construction of a 15-km "super bridge”.
Project cost: Php 18 billion ($324 milion, est.)
Completion: 5 years
Distance: 15 km
This ambitious project aims to establish a crucial link between Mindoro island (which, at 10,572 km², is more than twice the land area of Dubai) and the mainland Luzon, where Manila is.
In the Philippines, local governments can engage in business deals with private entities under the 1994 Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) Law (Act No. 6957, as amended by Act No. 7718). This law incentivises private sector investments in BOT projects, and also permits negotiated unsolicited proposals if they meet specified conditions.
SMC Infrastructure, the building arm of San Miguel Corp (SMC), is also concurrently spearheading the BOT-based construction of Manila's $15-billion second international airport in Bulacan, 30 minutes north of Manila.
The Mindoro-Batangas super bridge was first proposed by Oriental Mindoro congressman Alfonso Umali in 2015 and is now being pushed by Dolor to boost growth and development in the region post-pandemic.
Ang said he has started hiring engineering teams to run a feasibility study on the project.
Technical feasibility study
“We have started bringing together global experts across disciplines, including a European architectural and engineering firm to do a technical feasibility study on how the bridge can be built sustainably to benefit both people and the environment,” Ang recently told local media.
RSA, an engineer, is the visionary behind the $1.3 billion "Manila Skyway” — one of the world's longest elevated urban highways at over 42 km, acting as a flyover-bypass road — and has significantly eased traffic congestion in Metro Manila, as it directly links the southern and northern Luzon Expressways.
The skyway construction involved floating barges to build over-water viaducts, boosting SMC Infrastructure's knowhow in over-the-water building projects.
The planned bridge will start at Barangay Ilijan in Batangas, pass through Verde Island, and end at Barangay Sinandigan in Puerto Galera, Mindoro.
“The bridge is seen to result in faster and more efficient transport of people and goods and spur local economic growth through job generation, higher investments and optimisation of basic services such as water, power and telecommunications, among others,” And was quoted as saying.
During the 2022 election campaign, then-candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr vowed to push for the Mindoro-Batangas bridge.
Marcos said the ambitious project, which was included in ex-President Duterte’s “Build Build Build” programme but never started, will usher in development of the two provinces of Oriental and Occidental Mindoro and neighbouring provinces in the MIMAROPA (Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan) region.
According to records from the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Investment Coordination Committee (NEDA-ICC), the Mindoro-Batangas bridge has secured its place among the Department of Public Works and Highways' Top 10 priority projects.
SMC employs about 45,500 (2022) and is one of the largest and most diversified conglomerates in the Philippines, having been in existence for over 130 years, with interests in beverages, food, packaging, fuel and oil, power, and infrastructure.
Since 2002, Ang has served as the president and chief executive of listed SMC. He is also the chair and CEO (since 2010) and president and COO (since 2017) of SMC Global Power Holdings Corp., he is also the president and chief executive officer of Top Frontier Investment Holdings, Inc., the largest shareholder of SMC and the chairman of Cyber Bay Corp. and Eagle Cement Corp.