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Conservationists slam plan to demolish Cagayan de Oro’s oldest bridge

The DPWH says Cagayan de Oro's old Ysalina Bridge must be demolished due to safety concerns

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Heritage conservation advocates in this city are raising a strong objection to a government plan that entails the demolition of the iconic 77-year-old Ysalina Bridge.

Raul Ilogon, the leader of Kagay-an Heritage Advocates, said they vehemently oppose the Department of Public Works and Highways’ (DPWH) and the city government’s plan to demolish the bridge due to its profound historical significance in Cagayan de Oro.

OLD BRIDGE. The 77-year-old Ysalina Bridge in Cagayan de Oro on September 25, 2023. The DPWH wants to demolish the bridge because it has deteriorated and is supposedly unsafe. Froilan Gallardo/Rappler

Ilogon said they want the bridge spared, and preserved for future generations to appreciate. 

“We are not anti-development but there is so much history on that bridge,” Ilogon said.

However, Engineer Sabeniano Caliao, the head of the DPWH-X’s Planning and Design Division, said the Ysalina Bridge must be demolished due to safety concerns. 

According to Caliao, DPWH technicians closely examined the steel girders supporting the bridge deck and found significant corrosion, despite previous retrofitting efforts.

He said the corrosion had extended to the steel support piles and caps, rendering the bridge unsafe for public use and vehicular traffic. 

Caliao said the corrosion was due to seawater exposure during high tides from Macajalar Bay.

The bridge, named after the late Governor Paciencio Ysalina of Misamis Oriental holds historical significance as the first bridge to connect the eastern and western parts of Cagayan de Oro. 

The original bridge, constructed between 1880 and 1890, was built using bamboo under the orders of Major Juan Zanon, a military governor of Misamis Oriental.

The Cagayan de Oro Historical Commission reported that the bamboo bridge was later replaced with a steel one in 1931, which was subsequently destroyed during World War II. 

The current bridge was constructed in 1946 and has undergone several retrofitting efforts to repair corroded girders and trusses.

Caliao said the DPWH’s plan entails the construction of two new four-lane bridges to replace Ysalina Bridge. 

Another bridge for bicycles and another with guardrails would be built on either side.

“Bicycles and pedestrian traffic will have separate spans, distinct from those dedicated to vehicular traffic,” Caliao said.

The DPWH said it intends to construct three more bridges to accommodate future vehicular traffic demands.

Ilogon, however, urged authorities to preserve the Ysalina Bridge and construct a new bridge elsewhere along the Cagayan River. 

“Let the residents enjoy its history by sparing Ysalina Bridge and opening it [only] to foot traffic,” Ilogon said.

Ilogon said demolishing the bridge would go against the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009, which designates immovable cultural properties like the Ysalina Bridge as cultural assets entitled to protection and preservation.

Cagayan de Oro City Administrator Hilario Roy Raagas said Mayor Rolando Uy would meet with Ilogon and his group before the fate of the old Ysalina Bridge is finalized.

Raagas also said the city government is awaiting the results of tests conducted by the DPWH on the bridge two weeks ago. –