LIGHTS CAN WAIT. An aerial view of San Juanico Bridge connecting the islands of Leyte and Samar. The rehabilitation of the San Juanico Bridge has further delayed the much-awaited aesthetic lighting project, the Department of Tourism said on Friday (Aug. 20, 2021). (Photo courtesy of Lyle Arañas)

TACLOBAN CITY – The rehabilitation of the San Juanico Bridge has further delayed its much-awaited lighting project, a Department of Tourism (DOT) official said on Friday.

In an interview, DOT Eastern Visayas regional director Karina Rosa Tiopes said the completion of the lighting project will be pushed to early 2022 to give way to the repair of the 50-year-old bridge.

Tiopes said officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), bridge rehab contractor, and lighting project contractor Amigo Entertainment Technologies Inc., and others concerned agencies will meet regularly to resolve issues causing the delay of the tourism project.

Citing discussions in a recent meeting, Tiopes told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) that the DPWH contractor, M. G. Lualhati Construction Corp., unintentionally removed some of the bulbs and its fiber optics in their attempt to replace bridge bolts and install scaffoldings.

“Each bulb is linked to an address. Imagine how many bulbs were installed and each of these is interconnected to each other. If one is removed, other bulbs are affected,” Tiopes added.

The DOT regional office is tasked to monitor the project funded by the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Authority (TIEZA), an attached agency of the tourism department.

Toribio Odtuhan, head of the DPWH San Juanico Bridge Task Force, said Amigo was informed about the rehabilitation plan, but the latter failed to follow the recommendations on where to specifically install the bulbs.

“Our contractor is willing to pay the cost of damage. We will meet again with the DOT contractor and the Samar provincial government to resolve the problem,” Odtuhan told PNA.

The PHP96.25 million major bridge repair projects include structural steel painting, tightening and replacement of bolts, and general scaffolding.

This is the first initiative to tighten and replace bolts since the bridge was built in 1969.

The bridge repair will be done in December this year, moving the lighting project completion to the first quarter of 2022.

The PHP80-million San Juanico Aesthetic Lighting project was approved in 2018, with bidding that started in 2019, and groundworks that began in the same year.

It was initially targeted for completion in the second quarter of 2020 but was affected by the restriction due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, pushing the revised completion date to December last year.

However, during the test run, it was found that the power supply from a substation supplying electricity to the bridge was unstable. Major issues were addressed and officials revised the full completion date to Aug. 11, 2021 in time for the 180th Samar Day celebration.

“The entire project was 95 percent done when the DPWH started the bridge repair works. With this problem, there’s more work to be done again,” Tiopes added.

Under Amigo’s initial plan, the lighting will be in the default position for 45 minutes per hour in white and strobe lights. There will be a 10-minute light show six times nightly.

The colors may also depend on the occasion, such as red for Valentine's, red and green for Christmas, and violet for Lent.

Officials assured that lights will not distract traffic flow at the bridge that forms part of the country’s longest highway that links Luzon to Mindanao.

Aesthetic lights are not visible to motorists passing the bridge, according to the contractor.

The bridge’s transformation would be a new attraction under the Spark Samar, a branding campaign of the local government that was launched in 2015.

The San Juanico Bridge, which spans 2.162 kilometers, was built as part of the Pan-Philippine Highway now called the Maharlika Highway, a network of roads, bridges, and sea routes that connect the islands of Luzon, Samar, Leyte, and Mindanao. (PNA)