Steel bridges and sanitary landfills | Inquirer Opinion
As I See It

Steel bridges and sanitary landfills

/ 11:36 PM March 11, 2012

During disasters—typhoons, floods, earthquakes and landslides—rescuers and relief workers often cannot reach the disaster areas because the roads are blocked or the bridges are down.

Most of our bridges are made of concrete and take a long time to build or repair for obvious reasons. That is why many places are still cut off from civilization, bringing untold hardships to the people.


But here is some good news. There are modular steel bridges that can be put together very quickly. They were developed by American Army engineers during the war to make it faster for their troops and supplies to cross rivers where the bridges had been blown up by the enemy or destroyed during the fighting. We have a stockpile of these modular steel components of bridges left over from the President’s Bridge Program (PBP) initiated by Fidel V. Ramos.

They were manufactured by British supplier Mabey & Johnson, one of only two suppliers that provide an inclusive package that includes substructure costs, designs and steel decks. These components have been paid for on Donor Concessional Terms, four years ago per international contractual agreement.


Under President Ramos and President Joseph Estrada, the Department of Public Works and Highways maintained stockpiles of modular steel bridge components in depots strategically located throughout the country. The intention was to be able to react quickly in times of emergency, to swiftly replace damaged or destroyed bridges and restore transportation to isolated communities. These bridges were popularly referred to as “Fast, Versatile, Reliable Bridges,” crediting the man who initiated the PBP.

These modular steel bridges are the ideal solution for emergency bridging. UK Army engineers can install in just 30 minutes a 20-meter span that can bear the weight of an M1 Abrams Tank, or 60 tons. The beauty of this solution is that in normal times, with vital counterpart funding to provide ramps and connecting roads, the emergency bridge becomes a regular bridge. A small example of this modular steel bridge can be seen on Congressional Avenue Extension in Quezon City, which took the DPWH a very short time to install.

The Department of Agrarian Reform also has a stockpile of modular steel bridge components which are equivalent to 60 steel bridges of 30 lineal meters length each.

The second supplier is France’s Eiffel Matiere, offering, with its superior technology, a modular steel bridge that can bear 80 tons at 80 million cycles, roughly equated to a life of 100 years due to state-of-the-art metallurgy.

While it is unfair to pin the country’s lack of preparedness solely on the present administration, the onus unfortunately lies on its shoulders. Remember, during P-Noy’s term, the Philippines is expected to experience the worst effects of climate change.

The components for steel bridges are here. It’s just a matter of putting them together.

* * *


At last, we may have a model environment-friendly engineered sanitary landfill in Obando, Bulacan. The Supreme Court held in abeyance a temporary environmental protection order issued on the landfill, and returned the case to the Court of Appeals for acceptance of the return of the Writ of Kalikasan and for further hearing, reception of evidence, and rendition of judgment.

Ecoshield Development Corp. is the proponent of the environment-friendly sanitary landfill on 45 hectares in Obando, Bulacan. The modern garbage destination has already won the approval of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and of Bulacan’s Gov. Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado and Sangguniang Panlalawigan, but some residents oppose it. Ecoshield said a “shadowy group” is behind the efforts to stop the landfill because its business interest would be in jeopardy once the engineered sanitary landfill, the first in Central Luzon, begins operation.

“With the Court of Appeals hearing the case,” said Ecoshield officials, “the full import of the establishment of the sanitary landfill in Salambao, Obando, Bulacan, will be ventilated and thereby show the environmental safeguards that have been incorporated into the said landfill.”

They said the environmental benefits of the sanitary landfill will be discussed, and like the Bulacan government and the DENR, Ecoshield is optimistic that the opposers will similarly be swayed by the advanced technology being utilized in the construction of the landfill.

Governor Alvarado has been enthusiastic about the proposed landfill since it will serve as a model garbage dump in the country. That is the reason he pulled all stops to ensure that the landfill proceeds as per its own timetable.

The DENR also praised the efforts of Ecoshield in pursuing what can be regarded as the first engineered sanitary landfill in the country, so planned along the policy framework that governed the passage of the Solid Waste Disposal Law, an offshoot of the tragedy that struck the Payatas dump 10 years ago when a mound of garbage toppled on the shanties at the side of the dump, killing many scavengers.

Ecoshield’s plans, especially in cleaning up and reviving the Marilao, Meycauayan, and Obando rivers, earned plaudits from the DENR, the Bulacan provincial government and the municipalities badly affected by the polluted and badly silted rivers. In fact, they have signed a memorandum of agreement with Ecoshield for the revival of the rivers. There are, however, those who still want the project stopped.

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