P357 billion Metro Manila Subway a ‘white elephant’ — Recto
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - December 3, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The P357-billion Metro Manila Subway is a white elephant in the making owing to distortions made to its original alignment that led to dangerous design changes, the bloating of its cost and uncertainty in funding for the entire mega project, a Senate leader said on Sunday.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, who previously headed the National Economic and Development Authority, said he supports the subway project as a means to ease the worsening traffic congestion in Metro Manila, but some officials in the Department of Transportation (DOTr) reportedly altered the original project as drawn up by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

“It’s a good project if it’s properly planned. We don’t want it to be a white elephant. We want the people to benefit from it, not like the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. Let’s not implement it if we’re not prepared to implement it,” Recto said.

“We should not be reckless just to show we have a subway project, and to say we’re building it already. We may be able to start it, and it will take years and years (to complete), and we may still not able to use it and benefit from it,” he added.

Senators earlier said the chamber would probe the project, whose cost was reportedly bloated by over P150 billion. Its stations and specifications were suspiciously altered for commercial interests that it would be traversing twice a major earthquake fault and flood prone areas, and plow through thousands of private residences.

Recto warned that the costs of a project of such magnitude would inevitably escalate over time as surveys and plans change when actual construction begins.

 He pointed out that the original JICA plan was a product of long and thorough studies and surveys costing billions of pesos, while the realignment apparently was decided only in a matter of weeks by DOTr functionaries.

 Recto also asked the DOTr to explain how the project would be paid, and how much would it cost to maintain it. Inevitably, all expenses would be shouldered by the people, he said.

He said today, P6 billion in taxpayers’ money is being used to subsidize the MRT-3 since it started operations in 1999 because of problems that arose from poor planning.

 Recto said a project of such magnitude and cost “must be explained to the people’s representatives both in the House (of Representatives) and the Senate.”

 During the deliberations for the proposed DOTr budget last month, Recto and Sen. Panfilo Lacson asked the agency’s officials to make sure residents to be evicted because of the project must be paid first before the subway project starts as mandated under the Right-of-Way Act.

The original plan was to have the subway run generally beneath EDSA as part of the JICA’s Mega Manila transportation master plan based on surveys and feasibility studies that cost billions of pesos. But the DOTr reportedly deviated from the original alignment, to include rerouting it to Katipunan in Quezon City, which increased its cost from the original P208 billion, and had the subway pass twice through a major earthquake fault and cross several flood zones.

Transportation Undersecretary for rails Timothy Batan said the agency aims to first open three stations on Quirino Highway, Tandang Sora and North Avenue, Quezon City in 2022 after the JICA extended a P55-billion loan for them.


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