Senator Grace Poe expressed keenness and optimism on an ambitious project of the Duterte administration to construct a 25-kilometer underground mass transportation system, stressing such will not only help ease traffic in the already congested metropolis but also propel economic growth.
“We have to invest now, build now, but not without exercising caution. Having a reliable public transportation system, especially railway, will not only spell public convenience but also contribute to economic growth,” said Poe.
Poe, main proponent in the Senate of the emergency powers sought by the Duterte administration to ease traffic in major urban areas, has been an advocate of the subway system.
“Although it is relatively costly and the construction time will take a little bit longer as reportedly said by Transport officials, an underground mass transport will help decongest road traffic as there will be less road disturbance to the above-ground environment,” Poe added.
The senator however stressed that the subway design should complement road transport design above ground, and should take into account the accessibility and walkability of each station’s stop with that of other public transportation.
“Transport interconnectivity is key to a thriving economy and improving the lives of our people. I hope that this time the administration, in considering the location of each station, will prioritize public convenience and accessibility over private interests,” said Poe.
Reports said President Duterte and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are expected to sign an agreement for the P227-billion subway this year. Construction of the first leg of the Mega Manila subway is expected to be finished in 2024. The subway system will connect Quezon City to Taguig, with projected travel time at half an hour and can initially accommodate around 350,000 passengers daily in its opening year, officials said.
The proposed 13 stations are along Mindanao Avenue, North Avenue, Quezon Avenue, East Avenue, Anonas and Katipunan in Quezon City; Ortigas North and Ortigas South in Pasig City; Kalayaan Avenue in Makati City; Bonifacio Global City, Cayetano Boulevard and Food Terminal Inc. in Taguig; and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City.
“In the long run, the benefits will far outweigh the cost. As estimated by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), projected losses from traffic reach P3 billion daily. We must address this for the benefit of the public,” said Poe.
Based on the same JICA study, Metro Manila road traffic demand is expected to increase by 13 percent from 2012 to 2030, and the total transport cost of road users, including vehicle operating cost and time cost, will increase from around P3 billion a day to P6 billion a day.
The feasibility study of the subway project is ongoing with assistance from JICA.
According to Poe, the design should be “future-proof” and should have room for expansion to accommodate the growing population in the metropolis. Moreover, she cautioned the government about entering into disadvantageous contracts that hounded the EDSA MRT-3 and brought public inconvenience.
Poe said the government should ensure that the best engineers are hired because “although we are prone to flooding and other natural calamities, Japan, which is also in the path of various natural calamities, has successfully run their rail system with similar conditions.”
To emphasize that an underground railway system is possible in the Philippines, Poe said trains in the United Kingdom cross the English Channel, while in the US, the Bay Area Rapid Transit in San Francisco crosses the San Francisco Bay.
“This is a legacy project, one that can determine the forward trajectory of economic development in the country. Millions of jobs can also be created following a seamless transport system in Metro Manila. We should ensure that we deal with reputable companies and that we get the best deal for the operations and maintenance of the project,” said Poe.
Poe warned those in the administration that the Senate, particularly the Senate Committee on Public Services, which she chairs, will keep a close eye on the implementation of the project and will not hesitate to act or speak out with regard to any anomalous transaction.