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Friday, April 19, 2024

Villar: New rail projects seen to ease gridlock

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Senator Mark Villar said the government’s move to build mass transportation systems “holds the key to untangle the gridlock” that has hounded urban centers, particularly Metro Manila.

Villar said “the Philippines is moving in the right direction” as the country “builds and expands rail networks that can move more people faster to their destination.”

“This will hopefully discourage private vehicles from the roads in favor of trains – like in Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore,” Villar, who served as Public Works and Highways Secretary during the Duterte administration, said.

Villar also expressed support for the government’s move to accelerate the construction and funding of the country’s first subway train network.

The P55.37-billion loan agreement for the third tranche of official development assistance (ODA) financing the country’s first underground railway system, the Metro Manila Subway project, was signed by the Philippine Department of Finance and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) on March 26, 2024.

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“Dubbed ‘the project of the century,’ the underground rail line is expected to serve 370,000 passengers daily in its first year of full operations,” Villar said.

He said that once completed and fully operational, the Metro Manila Subway Project (MMSP) would have 17 stations, including one at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3.

Department of Transportation (DOTr) Undersecretary for Railways Jeremy Regino earlier said the planned Metro Manila Subway would be 33.1 kilometers long connecting Valenzuela City in the north and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in the south.

It will be the country’s first mass underground transport system designed to accommodate 1.5 million passengers a day, Regino said. The planned underground rail system is expected to serve 400,000 passengers to as many as 800,000 passengers a day. The system is expected to be partially operational between 2025 and 2026.

Villar dubbed the subway project a “game changer” as it is expected to reduce travel time between Quezon City and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, or NAIA, from one hour and 30 minutes to 35 minutes.

Villar also lauded the progress made by the DOTr in the implementation of the 147-kilometer North South Commuter Railway (NSCR) project, adding that it “will definitely make a big difference for our weary commuters” and “solve the infamous Metro Manila traffic.”

“From the outset, I personally believed the NSCR is one critical infrastructure project that could significantly alleviate the traffic congestion in Metro Manila and its surrounding provinces,” he said.

The NSCR will connect Calamba City in the south to the New Clark City in north. It will have a total of 36 stations along its route which will pass through several hubs of commerce in the National Capital Region and in the provinces of Laguna, Bulacan and Pampanga. It will include an airport express component with trains running at the speed of 160 kilometers per hour.

Villar cautioned that the implementation of “monumental” infrastructure projects like the NSCR is bound to face obstacles. “Building infrastructure to speed up the mobility of people and the flow of goods, however, is not smooth sailing all the time,” he said.

“The task will not be an easy one,” Villar said. “This requires the delicate balancing between the interest of progress, and the human and financial cost of resettling vast informal settler communities.”

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