By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

HOLIDAY RUSH. Department of Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista (left) leads a random inspection of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminals 2 and 3 on Friday (Dec. 23, 2022). Bautista noted the need for more inter-modal land transfer options that currently include point-to-point bus units, transport network vehicle service provider Grab and metered and regular taxi cabs. (Courtesy of DOTr Facebook)

MANILA – The administration of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has made significant strides in improving the transport sector, according to the yearend report of the Department of Transportation (DOTr).

Undersecretary Cheloy Garafil, Office of the Press Secretary (OPS) officer-in-charge, said one of the DOTr’s accomplishments in 2022 was the continuation of the “Libreng Sakay” (Free Ride) program.

“The Marcos administration successfully carried out “Libreng Sakay”, reporting 1.6 million students enjoying free rides in LRT-2 (Light Railway Transit-2) and 52 million overall EDSA Busway ridership from July,” Garafil said in a statement on Saturday, citing the DOTr’s yearend report.

The DOTr, Garafil said, also saw improvement in the railway system following the signaling upgrades in LRT-1 and the light railway vehicles overhaul in the Metro Railway Transit-3 (MRT-3).

Garafil said the DOTr’s North-South Commuter Rail Project facilitated the opening of the Philippine National Railway’s additional route from Calamba City, Laguna province to Lucena City in Quezon province.

“This is in addition to the Metro Manila Subway project, which commenced construction on the first section following a groundbreaking ceremony in Pasig City on Oct. 3 led by President Marcos,” she said.

Garafil noted that this year, the DOTr spearheaded the conduct of road repairs and installation of solar studs along the EDSA Busway, as well as bus timers in several bus stations.

Based on the DOTr’s accomplishment report, the EDSA Busway also had three newly completed and inaugurated additional stations.

International, regional aviation hub

The DOTr also has key projects that will help realize Marcos’ bid to transform the Philippines into an international and regional aviation hub, Garafil said.

The construction of the New Manila (Bulacan) International Airport, in cooperation with private partners, is one of the government’s initiatives to improve the aviation industry. It is targeted to be operational by 2027.

“The DOTr said it is collaborating with the Department of Public Works and Highways and the concessionaire to address concerns about the flood mitigation plan for the Bulacan airport project,” she added.

Another accomplishment of the DOTr is the launching of the Baguio-Cebu-Baguio commercial operations of Philippine Airlines on Dec. 16.

The DOTr is also pushing for public-private partnerships for the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Development Project and the Bulacan International Airport.

Garafil said there was a dialogue with the Asian Development Bank – Office of Public-Private Partnerships for the provision of transaction advisory services and the creation of an inter-agency technical working group from the DOTr, Department of Finance and Public-Private Partnership Center.

The DOTr had conducted advanced site acquisition for the airports in Laoag City in Ilocos Norte, Marinduque, Kalibo and Zamboanga.

Projects for maritime sector

To improve the maritime sector, the DOTr secured funding for port projects through the Special Allotment Release Order from the Department of Budget and Management, Garafil said.

“It has so far secured funds for four out of seven projects under the 2021 national budget and 15 out of 48 projects under the 2022 national spending program,” she said.

Additionally, the DOTr is implementing a three-year development plan to improve food supply and logistics; collaborating with the Department of Trade and Industry for the conduct of a logistics services conference; constructing new Green, Resilient, Advanced, and Digitally-Equipped ports; and expanding, repairing and maintaning existing ports, Garafil said. (PNA)