Quietly delivering

DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco - The Philippine Star
Quietly delivering
Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista inspects a train before the Holy Week rush.
Edd Gumban

When Transportation Secretary Jimmy Bautista was still president of Philippine Airlines, I had a long conversation with him about the need to expand and upgrade the facilities at NAIA.

I remember him complaining that they didn’t have enough parking space for their expanding fleet of almost a hundred. Sec. Jimmy was concerned about their inability to improve customer experience due to NAIA’s limitations.

So, PAL drew up an unsolicited offer to expand or even build another terminal and put up a train system connecting the three terminals. They were looking at the abandoned Nayong Pilipino area for expansion. But the proposal was ignored obviously because of too many vested interests. Too many folks are making money in NAIA, from the various concessions to those leasing land for commercial operations below market rates.

It was not surprising that once he became transportation secretary, Sec. Jimmy was determined to fix the NAIA problem once and for all. And the syndicates within the airport lost no time trying to stop him. They managed to get the Ombudsman to dismiss Jimmy’s choice for general manager because he exercised his managerial right to assign and reassign employees. There were also strong attempts to get Jimmy out of the Cabinet and it is a tribute to BBM that he stood behind Jimmy and kept him there.

Fixing NAIA quickly means privatizing its operations. There is no way it could be made half decent if the government kept control. That is obvious. No one believed Sec. Jimmy that he could bid out the privatization process as quickly as he had. But the seemingly impossible melted away in the face of a quietly determined leadership.

Finance Secretary Ralph Recto hailed the NAIA deal as the largest solicited Public-Private Partnership (PPP) project under BBM. According to Sec. Ralph, the PPP deal is aggressively forecasted to generate around P900 billion in revenues for the national government in the course of its entire concession period of 15 years with a provision for extension of another 10 years. This is opposed to the total dividends remitted by MIAA to the government from 2010 to 2023, which was only P22.05 billion.

According to Sec Ralph, “the total capital outlay for NAIA from the MIAA corporate operating budget was P13.56 billion from 2012 to 2022. Only P8.26 billion of this amount was disbursed during the period. The forecasted national government revenues amounting to P900 billion from the said deal include payments from the winning bidder of the following: P30 billion upfront payment, a fixed P2 billion annual payment, and 82.16 percent national government revenue share, excluding passenger service charges.”

The project was evaluated within a record-breaking six weeks. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) also advised the government panel in evaluating the bids.

San Miguel, under the supervision of DOTr and the MIAA will now undertake the project expected to increase airport capacity from 35 million passengers annually to 62 million, expand air traffic movements per hour from 40 to 48, improve service by applying internationally benchmarked minimum performance standards and specifications and utilize private sector expertise for modernization and capacity expansion.

There are other urgent projects on Sec. Jimmy’s plate because past transportation secretaries left a lot of unfinished projects. It is now his job to make these projects move a whole lot faster.

One of these is the Grand Central Station in the Trinoma North EDSA area where LRT1, MRT3 and MRT7 will converge. It is a major project that had been left uncompleted by two past administrations. The recent death of former Marikina Mayor Bayani Fernando complicated things because his construction company is the contractor for the project. I asked his widow, former Mayor Marides about it and she said they had not been paid for two years because of pandemic issues and a change in administration. But they are moving now.

I also asked Sec. Jimmy and this is how his staff replied: “As of 31 December 2023, the overall actual accomplishment is at 83.41 percent for Area A (LRT1 & MRT3) of the Common Station Project… the civil/structural works of the station building is already completed, while the installation of steel box girders and other steel components for the new LRT-1 Viaduct is ongoing. Given this actual accomplishment, the overall target completion (with signaling system) is in the third quarter of 2025.”

That would be just in time for the MRT Line 7, expected to be fully operational by then. MRT Line 7, which took over 10 years to get government approval, is a project of San Miguel Infrastructure. It had been doing test runs on its completed portions. Delays were caused by the government’s failure to provide the right of way. This line will be 22.8 kilometers long, comprising 14 stations from Trinoma to Bulacan.

Last week, Sec Jimmy broke ground for the EDSA Busway Concourse project. Located at SM North EDSA, SM Megamall, and SM Mall of Asia, the three concourses and access bridges will complement the DOTr’s innovative EDSA Busway initiative.

Ramps and elevators will ensure easy access for commuters of all ages and abilities, including persons with disabilities, senior citizens and pregnant women. The project is being financed by SM Prime.

Then there is the MRT4 project that will finally start construction soon. It will be a fully elevated railway mass-transit system to serve the eastern side of Metro Manila including the highly populated areas of the province of Rizal. The MRT4 will address the current transport bottleneck along the Ortigas avenue, and will be approximately 13.4 km long, with 10 stations. It will reduce traffic congestion and commute/travel times from Taytay to the Ortigas central business district from currently one to three hours by road to less than half an hour by rail. Again, ADB is involved.

Sec. Jimmy just quietly works to deliver the transport infrastructure we needed yesterday.



Boo Chanco’s email address is [email protected]. Follow him on X or Twitter @boochanco

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