By Azer Parrocha

IMPROVING TRANSPORT SYSTEM. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. presses a button to launch the Metro Manila Subway Project’s tunnel boring machine (TBM) at its depot in Barangay Ugong, Valenzuela City on Monday (Jan. 9, 2023), which marks the start of the construction of the subway tunnels. The PHP488.48 billion Metro Manila subway will stretch for about 33 kilometers across seven cities, from Valenzuela City to Pasay City, and will be able to serve over 519,000 passengers daily once completed. (PNA photo by Alfred Frias)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Monday reiterated his vow to continue upgrading the country’s transport system to relieve commuters of their daily ordeal due to traffic congestion.

“We will continue to invest and improve our transportation system as well as pursue more projects in the years to come so that Filipinos can gain greater access to places of work, commerce, recreation, and other vital areas,” Marcos said in his speech during the launch of the Metro Manila Subway Project’s (MMSP) tunnel boring machine (TBM) at its depot in Barangay Ugong, Valenzuela City.

“Having an effective and efficient transportation system will have multiplier effects on employment, the economy, our society, it will bring comfort, convenience, an easier life for all,” he added.

Marcos said developments on the country’s first subway system in the country allow Filipinos to look forward to “better days” as it would also spur economic development and job creation.

He thanked both the public and private sectors for working to ensure the realization of what he described as an “ambitious” endeavor.

In particular, he expressed gratitude to the Japanese government and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for being active partners in the fulfillment of the Philippine infrastructure program.

According to Marcos, the Philippines would not have fulfilled its many infrastructure projects without the assistance of JICA.

“This tunnel boring machine highlights Japan’s expertise and technology and trailblazing contributions in the modern world and thus I am confident that they will help us shape our railway infrastructure and keep them at par with the highest international standards,” he said.

He acknowledged the joint venture of Filipino and Japanese companies for working with the Philippine government on the Metro Manila Subway Projects Contract Package 101 and expressed hope it would be completed on time.

“I hope that both of you and the DOTR will not waiver on your commitment to finish the contract package by the end of 2027 to ensure that Filipinos will get to enjoy the project at the soonest possible time,” he said.

Marcos likewise sought their continued patience, trust, and support, especially as big-ticket projects take years to complete.

“…Let the launching of this tunnel boring machine become a testament to this administration’s commitment to continue to projects of the previous administration and more importantly build better more,” he added.

He also described the launch of the TBM as “a very apt beginning” for a year with renewed vigor and commitment to his administration’s mission to improve the lives of Filipinos.

“We also gain inspiration from the selfless individuals who constantly strive to turn our vision for the transportation sector into a grand reality,” he said.

The PHP488.48 billion Metro Manila subway will stretch for about 33 kilometers across seven cities, from Valenzuela City to Pasay City, and will be able to serve over 519,000 passengers daily once completed.

The transport project is also expected to generate 18,000 jobs and boost the economic activities of communities in Metro Manila.

‘New dawn of PH transport’

Meanwhile, a Japanese envoy said he believes that a “new dawn” is now “on the horizon” following developments on the Metro Manila subway project.

Matsuda Kenichi, the Minister and Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines, said the idea was first proposed in 1973 under the then Urban Transport Study in the Manila Metropolitan Area.

“The plan was first initiated during the time of the late President Marcos Sr. Decades later, it can be considered a legacy that is now in the hands of His Excellency President Marcos Jr. to fulfill,” Kenichi said.

He congratulated Marcos and Bautista for their dedicated efforts and leadership for the steady progress of the project despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Kenichi assured that the Japanese government will continue to work with the Philippines so that Filipinos can enjoy the benefits of a subway system.

“Please let me assure you that we, the Government of Japan, will continue to cooperate in this flagship project in a full-speed ahead manner until such time that Filipinos can finally enjoy the convenience of a subway,” he added.

‘Point of no return’

Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Jaime Bautista said the beginning of tunnel boring activities marks a “point of no return” for the project.

“We are going full speed ahead to complete the country’s first subway,” Bautista said.

He noted that there is an “urgent need” for improved railway transportation in the country, particularly to serve passengers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

“During the recent holiday rush when I inspected NAIA Terminal 3, I discovered the urgent need of providing a railway station as one of the multi-modal land-based transport options for arriving passengers,” he said.

He cited President Marcos’s support for the project and the efforts of the previous Duterte administration.

“The launching of this tunnel boring machine become a testament to this administration’s commitment, to continue the project of the previous administration, and more importantly, to build better more,” he said.

He also thanked the Japanese government and the JICA for helping fund the project through its official development assistance (ODA) loans.

The launch marks the start of construction for the MMSP’s Contract Package 101 (CP101), one of the project’s seven civil work contracts.

CP101 involves the construction of three underground stations in Quezon City and an additional semi-underground station in the northernmost part of the Valenzuela City depot.

In a press bulletin, the DOTr said a total of six TBMs would be used during the tunnel-boring phase of CP101, while stations will be completed using the “top-down” construction method.

Around 1.2 million cubic meters of soil are expected to be dug by the TBMs for the partial operability section of CP101, equivalent to 500 Olympic-size swimming pools.

“For the tunnels alone, the excavation will be around 711,000 cubic meters or an equivalent of 285 Olympic-size swimming pools,” it said.

A total of 7,419,940 cubic meters of soil, equivalent to 2,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools, is expected to be excavated for the entire alignment of the MMSP.

The MMSP is an underground railway system with a target capacity of 370,000 passengers daily.

It will cut across eight cities, from Valenzuela to FTI-Bicutan in Parañaque City with a “spur line” to NAIA Terminal 3 in Pasay City.

It will have a 33-kilometer route length and 17 stations and aims to cut travel time between Quezon City and NAIA from 70 minutes to 35 minutes. (with reports from Raymond Carl Dela Cruz/PNA)