This mega project in the Indonesian province of North Sulawesi will play an important role in supporting the planned Bitung Port and Bitung Economic Zone in the future.
In the past, land acquisition ran into obstacles in some stretches due to ownership issues, but they have been resolved through coordination with the relevant parties.
While accompanying President Jokowi on Tuesday to review the construction of the Kuwil dam in North Minahasa district, North Sulawesi, Public Works and Public Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono remarked that construction of the Manado-Bitung toll road was progressing well, and so was the land acquisition process.
The minister noted that the land acquisition process should be completed immediately so that the progress of the mega project is not affected. He requested all parties to help speed up the process.
The minister said that he constantly reviewed the project to determine its progress, and was optimistic that it would be completed in two years.
According to him, the Manado-Bitung toll road project is very important because it can shorten the travel time between the two cities.
The Manado-Bitung toll road is being built to provide an alternative to the only existing connecting line between the two cities.
Along with the sharp growth in the number of vehicles, traffic congestion is also increasing between the two cities.
Consequently, the travel time from Manado to Bitung is longer today, around 90 to 120 minutes, compared with only 45 minutes a few years earlier.
In addition, the risk of accidents has gone up. The toll road is expected to solve these problems when it is completed in 2018.
The Head of Public Works Department of North Sulawesi J E Kenap remarked in Manado recently that the first toll road in the province would be completed in two years.
According to him, the contractor is speeding up construction, and local residents are expected to sell their land to help accelerate the project.
Kenap also admitted that land acquisition was one of the issues hindering construction, but added that the regional government was in touch with the land owners.
The construction of the Manado-Bitung Toll road is being funded though the state budget, unlike by private funds as is the case in other cities in Indonesia.
"If we take into account the number of vehicles expected to use the toll road, it does not meet with the requirements. However, as its future function is to boost operation of special economic zone and Bitung Container Port, the road is still being constructed anyway," Kenap said.
The Manado-Bitung toll road project is one of nine mega projects in North Sulawesi aimed at boosting economic growth in the eastern parts of Indonesia.
State-owned toll road operator PT Jasa Marga has invested Rp5 trillion in the project.
The director of Manado-Bitung Jasa Marga, George Manuru, said in August that the toll road was 39 kilometers long.
Construction of the first 14 kilometers will be carried out by the government with funds from the state budget whereas the remaining stretch will be constructed by PT Jasa Marga.
He said that President Joko Widodo expects the construction of Manado-Bitung toll road to be complete by 2018.
"Therefore, we continue to coordinate with the National Land Agency [BPN] and Public Works and Public Housing Ministry to speed up the land acquisition process," he explained.
The Manado-Bitung toll road will be divided into two sections, namely Section I, which is the Manado-Airmadidi route, and Section II, which is the Airmadidi-Bitung route.
Meanwhile, the North Minahasa District government has urged the local people to be proactive in supporting the construction of the toll road that will connect the district.
The local government expects strong participation of the community in the construction of the toll road to improve the pace of economic development in North Sulawesi, particularly in North Minahasa district.
The Manado-Bitung toll road will provide infrastructure support to the special economic zone in North Sulawesi and access to the Port of Bitung, which will soon become an international port hub.
In addition, the Tanjung Merah Special Economic Zone in Bitung will become Indonesias new hub for business activity in the Pacific.
The special economic zone in Bitung is expected to become a new gateway because of its strategic position in the Pacific region.
Since the Dutch colonial era, there has been no new gateway in Indonesia, therefore, the opportunity to make Bitung a special economic zone must not be ignored.(*)