By Andrew James Masigan
2017 will set the tone for the remaining five and half years of the Duterte administration. If government’s lead agency for infrastructure, the Department of Transportation (DOTr), is able to move infrastructure projects beyond feasibility studies and into bidding and actual construction, it will send a signal that this administration indeed possesses the political will to plow through our wieldy bureaucracy.
It will assuage fears that this administration only talks big but actually carries a small stick. It will tell investors that the country is serious about building capacities and improving competitiveness through infrastructure. This makes 2017 as a make or break year for the country and the pressure is on for the DOTr to deliver.
Much have been written about the Duterte administration’s eight trillion peso infrastructure program. Its implementation, however, has yet to gain momentum.
Over lunch, I spoke to the man in the middle of it all, Secretary Art Tugade, who updated on the projects scheduled for implementation.
On the aviation sector, the decongestion of NAIA will continue until the new Manila International Airport is built. More domestic flights will be diverted to Clark including those to Busuanga, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu and Davao. In Sangley, the construction of a new P552-million passenger terminal is supposed to break ground this year. When completed, Sangley will be the main port of call for general aviation and select domestic flights.
In Daraga and Mactan, construction is in full swing for class 1 international airports. Meanwhile, completion of feasibility studies, master planning and site acquisition is ongoing for the construction and/or expansion of airports in Naga, Dumaguete, Ozamis, Leyte, Cotobato, Masbate, Laoag and Zamboanga.
As for the new Manila International Airport, there has been much speculation about the unsolicited proposals of the San Miguel Group and the Solar-Bell Resources’ consortium. San Miguel plans a 4 runway terminal suitable for 100-million annual passengers in Bulacan while the Solar-Bell Consortium is planning an integrated airport/seaport facility on reclaimed land near Sangley.
Truth is, disclosed the Secretary, only the proposal of SMC has been officially received by the DOTr. Hence, it is the only one recognized. With no other proposals on the table, the contract will likely be awarded to SMC within the year. The plan is for phase one of the new airport to be operational by 2022.
As for railways, construction of LRT1 extension from Baclaran to Bacoor will start next month, to be completed by 2021. Meanwhile, construction of MRT 2 extension from Santolan to Masinag, Antipolo is ongoing and should be completed within the year. MRT7 from North Avenue to San Miguel Bulacan is also under construction and will be be operational by early 2020.
Feasibility studies are now being conducted for MRT4, running from SM Taytay to Sta. Mesa, through Ortigas Avenue; Subterranean Subway 5, connecting BGC, Makati CBD, and the Bay City; Subterranean Subway 9, connecting Mindanao Ave. to FTI; PNR North Commuter 1-2, a 92-km commuter rail line from Tutuban to Clark, through Malolos, Bulacan; and of course, the Mindanao Rail Project, a 1,534-km circumferential railway connecting Iligan, Cagayan De Oro, Butuan, Nabunturan, Davao, Cotabato and back to Iligan.
Three Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines are also in the works. BRT Line 1 will run from Quezon Memorial Circle to the Manila City Hall. The project has already secured NEDA approval and is now in the land acquisition stage; BRT Line 2 will run along the stretch of EDSA from Monumento to SM MOA. Its feasibility study is now being completed; BRT Line 3 will run the C5 corridor from Commonwealth Avenue to Arca South. BRT 3 is up for NEDA approval. Cable cars are also under study to ease traffic in Manila, Boracay and Baguio.
The DOTr has adopted a new battle-cry, “Build! Build! Build!,” to signify its resolve to get its projects off the ground. Let’s hope they succeed.
Andrew is an economist, political analyst, and businessman. He is a 20-year veteran in the hospitality and tourism industry. For comments and reactions, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. More of his business updates are available via his Facebook page (Andrew J. Masigan). Follow Andrew on Twitter @aj_masigan.