Singapore: A coral reef ecosystem in the southern Philippines is under threat from a China-funded bridge project that links Davao city with Samal islands in the southern Philippines, according to The Singapore Post.

The 3.81-km four-lane Connector Bridge links Davao's third-largest city and tourist island. The bridge, projected to be completed in 2027, can accommodate up to 25,000 vehicles daily. It is also expected to reduce travel time between Samal and Davao City.

Notably, President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos made his presence felt at the project's ground-breaking ceremony in October.

Despite all the pomp associated with the project, environmental experts say that the landing point of the bridge near Paradise Reef is also a natural bulwark against storms and sea-level rise. According to The Singapore Post, this 7,500 square meter Paradise Reef is vital to shielding the coastal community from the effects of climate change. The report adds that the bridge will connect the Samal Circumferential Road to the R. Castillo-Daang Maharlika junction in Davao City.

Alarmed by the developments, the local community near the reef has questioned the decision of the Philippine government and other parties associated with the project.

Davao-based marine biologist John Lacson said the bridge does not belong to Samal island or to Davao city. "This is part of the Republic of the Philippines and Filipino residents," he added.

Despite the protest and concerns of the local community, the Philippine government chose to turn a deaf ear.

On the contrary, the government has resolved to go ahead with its plans and continue its partnership with China, extolling the latter's espousal of the road to modernity and perceived fruits of development.

"This is not the only project that we have depended upon, the concessional loans and even grants from the government of the People's Republic of China, and it is clear to see the benefits that those projects bring to our people, to our economy, and to the Philippines," Marcos said.

The Philippines President also lauded China for its support and for becoming a "dependable partner" in the government's infrastructure development program.