IN the next six years, P8 trillion will be up for grabs for consultants, contractors, and developers to accomplish crucial infrastructure projects. From the conversations I’ve had with several investors and business leaders, the opportunities are more than enough for local investors. Investors even said that definitely we would need the help of foreign contractors and developers to bring in expertise, technology, operations management, and funding. It’s possible that in the next few years we might see 20 kilometer-long bridges, connecting Bataan to Calabarzon, which I have been proposing for a very long time and named as Circumferential Road 10, and a bridge connecting the Visayas to Mindanao.
In other Asian countries, such as in the rich Pearl Delta region of China, they have constructed a bridge longer than 40 kilometers. It took around five years to finish. If we are to adopt the technology and open our country up for direct foreign investment, a 20km bridge may only take two to three years to finish. According to Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, they are considering constructing these land bridge connectors in the next six years. I hope, learning from the World Bank-funded MMETROPLAN 1975, of which I was a team leader and senior planner, we will not get stuck in analysis-paralysis.
Imagine, one can travel from the tip of Luzon to the southernmost portions of Mindanao by land or railway! In 2006, Maglev of Germany talked to me about the possibility of developing a Maglev railway in the country. It will only take three hours to travel from Laoag to Davao. By comparison, every Friday, it takes three hours to travel from Makati to Commonwealth Avenue.
Budget Secretary Diokno said that the goal of this administration is to fulfill the infrastructure backlog and target 7 percent of GDP for infrastructure.
The airport is a gateway, the front door, to a country. For any foreigner and returning Filipino expatriate, the airport is where they first set foot in the country. It is a welcome mat of our hospitality, character, culture and identity. Before you become an investor, you must first be a satisfied tourist.
In 2015, there were 36 million passengers. It means that the airport had the opportunity to showcase the entire country to millions of visitors. Inside the terminals, long walkways and waiting areas are places that give us an opportunity to present the beautiful islands and destinations of our country, as well as an opportunity to show the world-class craftsmanship of our artists, among others. As passengers are walking, there could be high-tech, digital screens that show the beauty of our country. There could also be interactive public art, sponsored by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. The potential is limitless.
Airports should be appreciated through the light of holistic planning and holistic passenger experience and consumer journey, not only airport congestion. Just like traffic, congestion is a symptom of a confluence of issues, but ultimately is a sign of poor design and management.
For the inside of the terminals, we can take inspiration from Tokyo, Dubai, Hong Kong, San Francisco, and Paris. Beautifully designed, futuristic-looking sleeping pods and reading nooks are available for passengers. Instead of the passengers rushing through or waiting on the floors, these facilities are aesthetically designed to influence or to entice the passengers to use them. There should also be a lounge dedicated to PWDs and the elderly, and airport-certified personnel to assist them with boarding.
The Duterte administration should not only address airport congestion, but also be mindful of the value that airport terminals bring to culture, business, and possibly entertainment. A pleasing journey will entice loyal customers.
The Manila Bay area alone will need at least three more international airports. The international airport at Clark will serve as a gateway to Northern Luzon, then an airport in Calabarzon will become the international gateway to Southern Luzon. On the other hand, NAIA will need a twin airport to decongest the air traffic on the NAIA runway.
Seaports and water transport
With 23 kilometers in length, Pasig River extends all the way to Laguna and Cavite. It has access to Rizal province as well. Imagine, those living as far as Laguna and Cavite, can reach the tip of Bataan and the island of Corregidor through the Pasig River and Manila Bay. From the mouth of the Pasig River, Manila Bay becomes the connector to the 200-kilometer-long Pampanga River Delta.
Water transport can be an alternative mode of transportation to alleviate the land-traffic congestion of Metro Manila. The ports of Subic and Batangas should also be developed and utilized to counter-magnet the congestion in the Port of Manila. These ports can actually become major development centers because of their access to materials, international tradelinks, and goods.
In other parts of the world, countries fight for the right to use coastlines and extend shorelines. Dubai created the Palm Islands to have more waterfronts. In contrast, our country has squandered its advantages in this regard due to poor implementation of environmental laws and lack of infrastructure.
Amsterdam, Singapore, South Korea, and New York all utilize their rivers as one of the main modes of transportation. There is also the primary concern of keeping waterways clean and maintain them as such.
In South Korea, they even went so far as to remove a 10-kilometer major highway in downtown Seoul to revive the Cheonggyecheon stream. It opened in 2005, and since then it has become a national inspiration and grand tourist attraction. It has also sparked urban and economic revitalization in the old districts of Seoul.
The Philippines is open for business. And I urge both foreign and local investors to study well the numerous opportunities that they can undertake. On the part of government, I advise that they consult more urban planners, environmental planners, and architects in achieving sustainable, livable, resilient, walkable, and bikeable smart cities.
In the next six years, the opportunities will extend beyond infrastructure. It will include education, housing, commerce, security, transportation, and many more. I urge foreign investors to not rely solely on the news, but converse with Philippine business leaders. For the government, I urge more business forums and business centers that can address the queries of investors, as well as become an avenue for the ease of doing business.