Transportation Secretary Art Tugade was the guest yesterday of the Manila Overseas Press Club which is led by me as chairman and by Babes Romualdez as president. He disclosed a number of pieces of good news.
The first segment of the four-lane elevated 5.4-km airport skyway, from Macapagal Avenue/Entertainment City to NAIA Terminal 1 and 2, will be inaugurated on Sept. 22. The entire airport skyway, which links the four NAIA terminals to the South Expressway, Roxas Boulevard, Macapagal Avenue/Entertainment City, and Cavite Expressway, will be operational before Christmas. Use will be free for one month – President Duterte’s Christmas gift but a big loss for operator San Miguel Corp..
The National Economic and Development Authority has approved the privatization of the four NAIA terminals, for P74.6 billion, similar to the privatization of the Cebu airport with the takeover by Megawide. The contract could be won by one or more private contractors, says Transport Undersecretary Bobby Lim. The premise is that NAIA will remain the main gateway of the Philippines. Forget about Clark becoming the new gateway. NAIA has two runways, one 3-km and a shorter one which is at 45-degree angle, not parallel to the 3-km runway, rendering it practically useless for major use.
Tugade’s men have considered a new NAIA runway, of 2.4 kms, but it would have dislocated Moonwalk Village and entailed monstrous cost.
One alternative gateway is Clark but most airlines would not want to move there on short notice. Though 40 percent of passengers come from north Luzon, airlines intending to operate at Clark face tremendous logistical challenges. They feel obligated to move their passengers from Clark to Manila and vice versa -- and traffic from Balintawak to NAIA in Pasay is bad. On a bad day, it means travelling for 80 kms from Clark to Balintawak and another 16 kms from Balintawak to NAIA for connecting flights. The 16-km portion alone is good for two hours. Also, there is no decent VIP lounge for business class passengers in Clark. So Clark will be allowed to grow on its own, riding on the spillover of flights from NAIA.
In the meantime, flights involving private plane owners are to be moved to Clark. This should decongest flights especially in the morning where general aviation accounts for a fifth of flights. Relocation of small planes has the effect of reducing waiting time for a commercial flight to take off at NAIA to just 40 minutes. Still, according to Lim, airlines operating at NAIA has had on time reliability of 53 percent, far below world standard. On time reliability – defined as a percentage of flights departing and arriving within 15 minutes of announced schedule (the ideal is 85 percent) –is to be improved by 25 percent to about 66 percent – still below global standard.
Meanwhile, traffic along E. delos Santos Avenue has improved by 20 minutes, according to Tugade. He said he left his DOTr office at 11:27 a.m. yesterday at arrived at the Manila Golf Club where the MOPC Forum at 11:47 a.m.. Quite marvelous by the standards of horrendous EDSA traffic.
By law, traffic in Metro Manila, is the main job of the Metro Manila Development Authority, not by Tugade’s DOTr. So far, MMDA has not come out with a firm proposal on how to solve what is considered the world’s worst traffic on earth.
One solution is improving the MRT3 service which runs 22 kms from North EDSA to Baclaran and carries more than 600,000 daily. The issue is the supply and availability of trains. About 43 of 73 trains need to be repaired. The old trains can run for only 40 kms an hour, not 60 kph as before, which means MRT3 has lost one-third of its capacity. New trains can be installed and test-run only in the first half of 2017. So forget about MRT3 if you are expecting improvements before the end of 2016.
The MRT3 was the symbol of the Aquino administration colossal incompetence and corruption. The plunder was estimated at P10 billion by Philstar columnist Jarius Bondoc. Under BS Aquino, the maintenance contract went to a company whose owners were officials of the Liberal Party and one was related to an MRT3 manager who was later fired. The maintenance contractor did not the maintain the trains and the tracks but pocketed the billions of money for it. Forty-eight new trains were procured from China but without the engines. Engines were procured from Germany; signaling system from Korea. So the trains, engines and signaling system could not talk to each other seamlessly, even if one uses Duterte’s “I will kill you all policy”.
One the ground, Tugade promises the availability of driver’s license cards and vehicle plate numbers by the first half of 2017. How? By government taking over the manufacture of both licenses and plate numbers. Some 6.7 million license cards need to be printed. Some eight million vehicles need license plates. The only remaining problem, it seems, is for DOTr to pay the private manufacturers of the licenses and plates contracted by the BS Aquino administration.
Tugade says the new driver licenses will be good for five years and can be renewed online if the driver has no violation. The plate numbers are good for three years. That should reduce red tape at the Land Transportation Office described by Duterte as one of the most corrupt agencies.
There is no firm plan to regulate the sale of new cars. It’s a big lobby group and it has an awesome war chest. Tugade hopes to get emergency powers from Congress to regulate the sale and use of cars, to force private subdivisions to open their streets to pass-thru public traffic, facilitate right of way purchases of valuable property for traffic use, and cut through the crippling labyrinth of the bidding process for urgent procurement.
Please note: Traffic is not the main responsibility of Tugade. It is the MMDA’s job and we have yet to hear from MMDA outside of the excuses.
I would like to hear from new MMDA chief Tim Orbos who looks more pious and priestly than his own brother who is a priest.