TO BE ILLUMINATED. The highest point of the 2.16-km. San Juanico Bridge that connects Leyte and Samar Islands. The central government on Friday (July 26, 2019) officially began the much-awaited PHP80-million San Juanico Bridge Aesthetic Lighting Project, the first of its kind in the country. (PNA photo by Sarwell Meniano)

STA. RITA, Samar — The central government has officially begun the much-awaited PHP80-million San Juanico Bridge Aesthetic Lighting Project, the first of its kind in the country.

Funded by the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), the project had its groundbreaking at San Juan village here Friday night, which was attended by key officials. The project is up for completion after six months.

Samar 2nd District Rep. Sharee Ann Tan, the project proponent during her term as governor last year, said it will transform the image of Samar from being poverty- and conflict-stricken into a tourism haven.

“Samar will be surely noticed through this lighting project. We have to make people aware that we are not part of Leyte or Tacloban City. We want to be identified as Samar, the mother of three Samar provinces. We don’t want to compete, but we only want to complement other provinces in the region. We want the San Juanico Bridge to not only be the bridge of love, but also the bridge of prosperity,” Tan told officials during the ceremony, held under the bridge.

TIEZA awarded the contract to Amigo Entertainment Technologies, Inc., one of the country’s leaders in providing audio and visual technologies for commercial and industrial applications.

Amando Zamora, Amigo chief executive officer, said the project will use light-emitting diodes, transforming the bridge into a “shining diamond” from afar.

“The lighting will be in the default position for 45 minutes per hour in white and strobe lights. There will be a 10-minute lighting show for six times nightly. Its color may also depend on the occasion, such as red for Valentine’s, red and green for Christmas, and violet for Lent,” Zamora said.

TIEZA Chief Operating Officer Pocholo Paragas said funds for the San Juanico Bridge lighting will be funded by travel taxes.

“This is a flagship project of TIEZA for national development. We wanted to show the resiliency of Samar, on how it has gotten up better than before. We know that this will start Spark Samar moving forward,” he noted.

Also approved by TIEZA is an additional PHP97 million requested by the Samar local government for the construction of a nine-meter baywalk. The structure will have a three-meter viewing space, three-meter access road, and another three meters for restaurants and kiosks.

Edwin Enrile, Department of Tourism undersecretary for legal affairs and special concerns, affirmed the department’s continued support for tourism development in the region.

“Our hope is for tourism to be one of the key drivers for economic growth and key pillars in eliminating insurgency because this project is also geared towards peace and order,” he said.

Samar’s provincial government will shoulder the cost of electric consumption, which is estimated at PHP5.3 million annually.

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

Once called the Marcos Bridge, the San Juanico Bridge was built in August 1969 over the San Juanico Strait, the narrowest navigational strait in the world that separates Samar and Leyte Islands, and was completed in December 1972. 

The bridge, which spans 2.162-km., 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)