INFRASTRUCTURE

Fostering connectivity and mobility

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THE Department of Transportation (DOTr) is among government agencies tasked to help achieve the goals of the “Golden Age of Infrastructure,” the centerpiece program of the ruling administration that calls for a massive spending of up to P9 trillion, to improve the country’s roads, bridges, ports, airports, public-transport systems, and other infra projects.

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Already, the DOTr has begun to construct, develop, and expand projects like transportation systems in line with government efforts to foster connectivity and mobility. Consider, for instance, the PNR North Railway, the Clark International Airport, the Bicol International Airport, and the New Bohol-Panglao Airport.

PNR North Railway
Last June, the DOTr marked the first five stations of the P255-billion North project of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) that will link Metro Manila to the Clark Freeport Zone, in the Central Luzon province of Pampanga. Set for completion by 2020, the PNR North Railway was scheduled to start construction around the fourth quarter of this year.

Divided into two phases—a 38-kilomter (km.) segment spanning from Manila’s Tutuban railway station, in Divisoria, to Malolos, Bulacan, about 11 kms. north of Manila, and a 70-km. stretch from Malolos to Clark. Expected to accommodate 340,000 passengers per day, the first phase will have 10 stations, cutting the Manila-Bulacan travel time to 35 minutes instead of about two hours. The Malolos-Clark stretch, on the other hand, will have seven stations, bringing down hours of travel time between Metro Manila and Clark International Airport to mere 55 minutes.

The PNR North project would then be extended up north to La Union, a province in the Ilocos Region; Tuguegarao, the provincial capital of Cagayan and the institutional center of the Cagayan Valley Region; and the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, a former US naval base in Olongapo City, Zambales. This would be funded through the official development assistance from Japan, the DOTr has said.

Clark Int’l Airport
An estimated 8 million passengers per annum could be handled by the CRK, or Clark International Airport, upon the completion of its new terminal building by 2020. Bidding for the project—which has been opened by BCDA, or Bases Conversion and Development Authority, a government-owned and -controlled corporation—attracted such big construction players as First Balfour, Inc.-Datem JV; Megawide GMR Joint Venture; Tokwing Construction Corp.; Qingjian Group Co., Ltd.; R-II Builders, Inc.; China Harbour Engineering Co., Ltd.; and China State Construction Engineering Corp.

According to DOTr, CRK is seen as an alternative to decongest Metro Manila’s NAIA, or Ninoy Aquino International Airport, in Pasay City. Aviation companies like the Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, and AirAsia have begun increasing their flights to local and/or international destinations from Clark. The China Eastern Airlines, meanwhile, is scheduled to start its Clark – Shanghai flight from October, while Australia’s Jetstar Airways, a Melbourne-based low-cost airline, is scheduled to have its Clark – Singapore route by November.

The expansion of CRK will serve as the Northern and Central Luzon aviation catchment area, according to the DOTr, and will increase the number of flights to and from Clark, both international and domestic. With an estimated cost of P15.5 billion over a three-year period, the project will have its budget allocated by the national government through BCDA’s corporate funds amounting to P12.55 billion, and DOTr to the tune of P2.8 billion.

“The bidding for the operations and maintenance [O&M] will follow,” the BCDA said in a text message to the Times. “O&M will be bid out under the public-private partnership [PPP] scheme.”

BCDA President and CEO Vince Dizon has referred to CRK as the “main driver of growth” in Central Luzon.

Bicol Int’l Airport
Located on a 148-hectare lot in Daraga, Albay, the Bicol International Airport (BIA) will have a 2,100-meter runway strip with a scenic view of Mt. Mayon, a volcano in Albay province known worldwide for its perfect cone. Being constructed with a budget of P4.798 billion under the General Appropriations Act, or People’s Budget, the project is scheduled for completion by 2020 and seen to increase economic growth in the capital city of Legaspi. “The delivery of the project is expected to boost tourist arrivals and will help Albay become an economic warehouse,” the DOTr said.

A project long overdue, the BIA was conceptualized during the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and was then carried on to the term of President Benigno Aquino 3rd. It should have been operational in 2016, but problem in the bidding process and awarding of contracts had delayed it, despite the availability of funds. Now, after putting it on hold for 11 years, the groundbreaking of its Phase II was conducted last December, giving the go-signal for construction works to begin, including for 17 buildings dedicated to cargo, air traffic control, material-recovery facilities (MRF), and water reservoir.

New Bohol-Panglao Airport
Originally slated for completion by 2020, the New Bohol-Panglao Airport will now be finished by mid-2018, according to the DOTr. The project, whose P2-billion budget will be sourced from the ODA, or official development assistance, and PPP, is seen to provide a new gateway to the paradise-province of Bohol, in central Philippines, which is known for its sugary white-sand beaches and azure crystal-clear waters. Seen to accommodate 1.9 million passengers annually upon completion, the project would reduce congestion significantly at the sole airport in the capital city of Tagbilaran.

Bulacan/Manila Bay airport
DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade, meanwhile, said his department is set to conduct talks with the San Miguel Corp. (SMC), a Filipino conglomerate holding company, for the latter’s proposal to build an airport in Bulacan. “For the Bulacan airport, they (SMC) have a letter to us,” he said. “We said that we are subject to talk.” He stressed that there has to be an agreement that SMC will not demand that airline companies transfer their aircraft to Bulacan from other airports. Upon agreement on its terms and conditions, the project shall be submitted to the Investment Coordination Committee of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) for approval, Tugade said, after which the government would call for a Swiss challenge.

A process in public procurement, Swiss challenge is when a public authority that has received an unsolicited bid for a project publishes details of such and invites third-parties to match or exceed it.

The airport project proposed by SMC has an estimated cost of P700 billion, and will cover a 2,500-ha. of land in Bulakan, Bulacan, and would be constructed along Manila Bay. This was a revised proposal from the initial $10-billion airport to be located in a reclamation project on the Manila – Cavite coastal road.

DOTr Undersecretary for Aviation Manuel Tamayo said the airport project is “feasible,” and that the department is taking a look at the proposal. “We are looking on how it will be classified, whether it’s PPP or so on, in order to give them an original proponent status,” he explained. “We are expediting it based on the direction of Secretary Tugade.”

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