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Mar's 'to do list' now Abaya's

Now that he is moving out of DOTC, Mar Roxas no longer has to worry about a promise announced by P-Noy during the last SONA to deliver a fully functioning NAIA 3 by the next SONA.

It shouldn’t matter that the new DOTC Secretary Joseph Abaya cannot assume office within the next month or so… the clock is still ticking. Abaya, who is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee has to deliver an approved national budget and wait for his confirmation by the Commission on Appointments.

Mar himself cannot move over to DILG until he is confirmed. But the Palace announced an OIC will be appointed at DOTC in the meantime.

I was thinking that maybe the OIC the Palace will appoint should be Abaya’s choice… someone who will become a senior undersecretary or his chief of staff once he is confirmed. This way, work can be done in the meantime and no time is lost.

It is true that DOTC has recently published notices seeking bidders for some of its pending projects. The most significant of these is the LRT 1 extension to Cavite which should be close to the heart of Abaya, a current congressman from the province. But we have no real news about other major big ticket projects. Here is an attempt to make an inventory of Mar’s “to do” list that Abaya is inheriting.

On top of that list is NAIA 3, if only because P-Noy promised it will be fully functional by July next year or the next SONA. They have published a notice seeking bidders to work on NAIA 3 costing P212 million. I have heard expert comments that the work entailed may require a lot more than that.

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I have asked around what exactly DOTC wants done with Terminal 3 that involves its structural integrity. Apparently the current project bidding is based on the Arup-TCGI Study done in 2007. Scope of work required by Arup-TCGI Study is very similar to the current program described in the bid documents.

That study recommended a number of things. In its letter to former MIAA head Al Cusi, Ove Arup said, “The use of the facility at this time, even in a limited scale, is not advisable as this will expose user of the facility to life-safety risks.”

TCGI Engineers, in a pre-final report to MIAA, said that while “there is no cause for concern about foundation instability, the structure of Terminal 3, as constructed, has not fully complied with the original design intent developed by the structural designer, Meinhardt.” TCGI found that “there are violations of code requirements on life-safety issues, specifically on the capacity of the facility to prevent structural collapse and loss of lives in the event of a major earthquake.”

After receiving the reports, Cusi wrote Ken Kurebayashi, project director of Takenaka Corp. for the NAIA 3 project, to immediately “rectify the defects in the structural works” of the facility. Takenaka was told to fix the problems but apparently did nothing and Terminal 3 has been open since 2007 anyway. Luckily we didn’t have a big earthquake!

A structural engineer familiar with the study told me that based on the study, “there are some beam elements (and possibly some column elements) that are under designe based on current standards which do need retrofitting. Sometimes when the deficiencies of the column strength are major, the introduction of additional shear walls is more effective specially for low structures like Terminal 3.”

So, why is DOTC paying for rectifying an inadequacy in the airport’s construction by Takenaka? The other key question is safety… why are we even using the facility if a commissioned study has raised serious safety questions?

Also, the bidding on this project was supposed to be last August 23 but no word on results. Did the bidding even push through or maybe no bids were submitted.

Mar has not exactly been transparent with his projects. All we can do is try to fit the pieces together based on previous published information and conversations with experts. Abaya should do better on the transparency side. 

The second big item in Mar’s “to do” list is getting back Category 1 status from the US FAA and the European aviation authorities. This is a matter of national honor. It is also about business. Our flag carriers can’t get more flights not just in the US and Europe but also in countries like South Korea.

From the last conversation I had with the current CAAP chief, the remaining sticking points have to do with getting qualified personnel so CAAP can have a more credible regulatory environment. This includes check pilots, aircraft inspectors, accident investigators and flight controllers among other highly technical positions. I am told that problems with pay scales prevent CAAP from hiring qualified staff.

The other thing has to do with facilities. Seems our facilities particularly on air traffic control are Stone Age. We are committed to modernize and I was told we are paying a monthly fine for non compliance.

Sec. Mar has reportedly put on hold the acquisition of a JICA-financed modern CNS/ATM or Communications, Navigation, Surveillance/Air Traffic Management system already cleared by his predecessor, Ping de Jesus. The first three concerns expressed by the FAA pertains to equipment and the last concerns re-thinking or re-orienting of procedures on air traffic management in order to maximize the features offered by a modern CNS/ATM environment.

Even the air traffic congestion at NAIA could be dramatically alleviated if we had this modern system which utilizes satellites (GPS) rather than our antiquated land-based radars which often conks out as well.

The third big item on Sec. Mar’s “to do” list is NAIA congestion. Mar chose to sacrifice the domestic airlines to “solve” the problem by ordering them to curtail their flights. Making more domestic airports capable of night operations must be fast-tracked so that airlines don’t crowd their schedules to beat a sunset curfew.

And while Mar was brave enough to order the “fish flights” to move to Sangley and the flying schools to Plaridel, Bulacan, corporate fat cats in their small private jets are still competing with the big jets of the airlines for take off and landing slots. General aviation should have been taken completely out of NAIA before the domestic carriers were penalized.

The fourth biggie has to do with MRT/LRT. There are several items under this category. The only thing Mar has done here is to announce an increase in fare rates. Improvement of service should have taken precedence.

That gap in the MRT/LRT service loop due to the absence of a central station has to be addressed. The infrastructure to allow LRT trains to travel on MRT rails have been completed for a couple of years now. But a passenger on the LRT must go down at Roosevelt station, walk or take a jeepney for 500 meters to the Trinoma station of MRT to continue his journey.

This is absolutely ridiculous. If the problem is due to the animosity between the Henry Sy and Ayala Groups, government must force them to come to an agreement. The riding public must not be held hostage to commercial squabbles.

The service on the MRT itself must be made safer and far more comfortable. That means upgrading the signaling system and adding more train cars among other things. A more consumer friendly ticketing or token system must be instituted and the long lines at stations addressed.

All that costs money and DOTC must now decide on a proposal of Manny Pangilinan to deliver the improvement at no cost to government… indeed MVP proposes to even pay government concession fees.

Then there is the matter of North Rail. China has accepted our offer to start from scratch provided we pay expenses already incurred. We have to get moving there before the squatters reclaim the right of way we paid so much to clear.

For the Coast Guard, faster action on Japan’s offer to provide 12 brand new patrol boats is needed. Asked by an Inquirer reporter, the Japan Information and Culture Center (JICC) said “it remains a plan since we have not yet received any official request from the Philippine side. Please contact the Department of Transportation and Communications, the PCG or the National Economic and Development Authority for updates.”

The list is actually longer but this is all I can accommodate for this column. With the fairly long gestation period for DOTC projects, there is just so much work and so little time until 2016 to get things done! Let us hope Joseph Abaya has Superman qualities.


We end with a quote attributed to V. Lombardi:

The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will.

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

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