THE Cebu-Cordova Express Link (CCLEX) Corp. is set to award the P27.9-billion design-and-build contract for the Cebu-Cordova third bridge project within the week. In a interview with SunStar Cebu, Secretary Adelino Sitoy, former Cordova vice mayor and now Presidential Legislative Liaison Office head, said the bidding is ongoing. "The awarding of the contract will be this July. There are two contractors who qualified for the bidding,” he said. CCLEX general manager Allan Alfon confirmed this, saying they're evaluating the bid quotations submitted by the two contractors. Alfon said both are foreign, but they will have to sign a joint-venture agreement with local contractors. He said they are within their schedule of works since the contractor will start preliminary works when the notice to proceed is awarded next week. "We are hoping that we will be able to award the project to the design-and-build contract this July. Rest assured that CCLEX is committed to open the bridge on or before Dec. 31, 2020," he said. The opening of the third bridge will coincide with the 500-year commemoration of the start of Christianity in the Philippines, particularly in Cebu. Preliminary works, which are expected to start by the last week of this month, will include geotechnical investigation, among others. "Many contractors were interested but only two qualified and this is a big project that's why we are doing the evaluation seriously," Alfon said. He said the design of the bridge that was shown last March will still be the same, only that the contractor will come up with a detailed engineering drawing of the structure. "It will be the same schematic, the same basic design," he said. Asked if civil works will simultaneously start in Cebu City and Cordova, Alfon said the final decision will rest on the winning contractor. Metro Pacific Tollways Development Corp. (MPTDC), through its subsidiary CCLEX, will operate the bridge. MPTDC entered an agreement last year for a joint venture with Cebu City and Cordova for the bridge. The 8.5-kilometer toll bridge is expected to ease traffic in Cebu and eventually spark economic growth and productivity not only in Cebu Province but also in the Central Visayas. To complement it, Cordova is also proposing more than P2 billion worth of road projects within its jurisdiction and in Mactan Island. The proposal forms part of the P12-billion estimate for the diversion roads and other infrastructure that Cordova and Lapu-Lapu City will need once the bridge is fully operational, said Sitoy. Sitoy said he will endorse the project proposal to the National Economic and Development Authority and will seek the endorsement of the Regional Development Council, so the Department of Public Works and Highway can include these projects in their 2018 appropriations.