IF it pushes through, the proposed P370-billion (or US$8-billion) Mass Transit System Loop (MTSL) project will go down in Philippine history as one of the most wasteful, idiotic and ill-conceived infrastructure project undertaken by the government, and particularly, by the PNoy administration.
The proposed 20-kilometer MTSL project – the brainchild of Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya – would consist of a 16-kilometer-long tunnel and four kilometers of elevated railway along the reclaimed area in Pasay City.
Since most of the line will run underground, it’s been touted as the first subway in the country, with stations at Market-Market, McKinley Parkway, 5th Avenue, Ayala/EDSA, Ayala Triangle, Makati Post Office, PNR Buendia, Buendia/Taft Avenue, World Trade Center, Mall of Asia (MOA), and EDSA/Taft Avenue.
According to Abaya, the subway project is intended to connect the Bonifacio Global City (BGC), the Makati Central Business District, and the MOA area in Pasay City. The rail system would allegedly address the growing concern of traffic congestion in the fast growing urban centers in the cities of Makati, Pasay, and Taguig.
Abaya also says the MTSL will improve inter-city linkage by providing a higher capacity public transportation system that would facilitate fast and convenient mobility of goods and services. The subway project also hopes to address the high volume of vehicular traffic traversing these commercial areas.
Because of the huge cost involved, the subway project will be funded by a private sector partner who will finance, design, construct and operate the mass transit system as a public-private partnership (PPP) project.
Once approved, this will be the biggest and most expensive PPP project of the government thus far. It will also be the epitome of the PNoy administration’s sell out to big business interests.
Limiting the coverage of the subway system to the two business districts in Taguig and Makati as well as the mall and casino district in Pasay’s reclaimed area will not have much impact on the public transport problems in these cities. Neither will it alleviate the hardship experienced by thousands of Filipino commuters every single day.
The MTSL project is obviously meant to benefit the big mall owners, developers and conglomerates in the Makati, Taguig and Pasay commercial districts. In fact, the proposed MTSL project seems to disregard the other congested and fast-growing business areas in Pasig, Mandaluyong and Quezon City.
Worse, since the private sector partner will somehow have to recoup its expenses and make a profit, it is ordinary Filipinos who will be picking up the tab for this multi-billion peso project.
With a cost equivalent to 14 percent of our country’s GDP, the P370-billion tag price of the subway project is higher than the annual budget of the Department of Education, which traditionally receives the lion’s share of our national budget. Such a massive sum would be better spent on a PPP project that will have a real positive impact on the economy and on the lives of ordinary Filipinos.
This is why we are dumbfounded that National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Arsenio Balisacan signed off on this foolhardy project. Reportedly, NEDA’s only objection is to Abaya’s project is the route of the subway line within the Bonifacio Global City.
Balisacan’s apparent endorsement of the MTSL project is quite puzzling because the proposed MOA-Taguig-Makati loop was not even included in the “Mega Manila Subway Project” study jointly conducted by NEDA and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) last March 2014.
The JICA-NEDA study proposed an EDSA subway line that would start at San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, in the north then traverse the high volume corridors of Metro Manila and end at Dasmariñas, Cavite, in the south.
With its North-South alignment, the subway line will effectively connect Region III (Central Luzon), the National Capital Region (Metro Manila) and Region IV-A (Calabarzon), the study said.
The EDSA subway line will be more beneficial since “it will provide a strong north-south transport backbone that will augment the constrained capacities of the current railway lines and ease traffic congestion in Metro Manila.”
The study also found that putting up the subway along EDSA will “provide a reliable and efficient mass transport system that will promote synergistic growth of the whole Greater Capital Region (GCR) comprised of Central Luzon, Metro Manila and Calabarzon.”
If the EDSA subway line becomes operational, it will be able to carry some 1.8 million passengers per day. That’s three times bigger than the present ridership of the MRT and the LRT-1.
With Metro Manila’s transportation system bursting at the seams, we definitely need a major public transport project finalized and started soon.
As for Abaya’s MTSL project, we need it like we need a hole in the head.