Experts rated subway route least acceptable
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - September 13, 2019 - 12:00am

Poultry prices are spiking. From P125/kg in Aug. chicken now retails at P165. Supply is low as raisers are fewer. Many went bankrupt from the Jan.-Apr. price crash caused by the Dept. of Agriculture’s 1,100-percent poultry over-importation in 2018. Compounding it is China’s inability to sell; it too is short of fowl as consumers switch from pricey scarce good pork due to African swine fever.

The supply crunch may linger awhile. Fortuitously San Miguel Corp. is expanding big-time from contract growing of broilers to contract breeding of egg-layers. That would help raisers get back on their feet. SMC president Ramon S. Ang is erecting 12 giant feeds silos in major ports nationwide. Poultry men welcome cheaper feeds.

SMC’s food division needs more domestic poultry. Its 480-ton-per-day (!) Purefoods hotdog line cannot depend on imports. Ang is devising a new business strategy: food ready-to-eat. That would perk up as well the hog industry, presently reeling from the entry of the deadly ASF.

Alerted in 2018 about the global ASF spread, DA’s reaction was anemic. Coordination with crucial agencies was spotty. Customs men learned of it only in a Senate hearing in Apr. 2019. Shoe-wipe mats at international airport arrivals were lacking. Hog raisers’ pleas of potential collapse of their P260-billion industry were ignored.

Only now, under new six-week-long DA Sec. William Dar, are backyard raisers, pork processors, and the public being taught: Pigs can die within hours of ASF infection; no vaccine or cure. Virus spreads fast among hogs and in swill; deceased stocks must be buried. Though not infected, humans carry it in their clothes, footwear, tools like cleavers and grinders, and delivery vehicles. Strictly decontaminated hog farms like SMC’s are safe.

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Experts had deemed the Metro Manila subway’s present route the least advantageous of many options. Running along Katipunan, Quezon City, to Bonifacio Global City and Food Terminal Inc. in Taguig, it would disturb the most number of people and structures. It was most prone to disaster, noise and vibrations, as compiled in official reports. It was also the costliest, budgeted at P227 billion (as of 2017).

Dozens of subway engineers had analyzed three other options since 2013. Most were technicians from Japan International Cooperation Agency and train consultants. When the present subway route later was approved, no previous studies were first openly tabled. It is now under construction.

The first three route options were: (1) EDSA (E. delos Santos Avenue), mostly parallel to the existing ground-level and elevated MRT-3; (2) Greenhills, San Juan; and (3) Mandaluyong. Central business districts were to be interconnected. The three were graded on basic subway rail criteria: social and environment impact, safety and disaster (floods and earthquakes), urban development potential, health and environment impact on persons and structures along the route, connectivity with other railways, and need to relocate communities.

Foremost was volume of passengers to be served, especially workingmen to and from work. The EDSA option was rated superior in all respects.

Somewhere along the way the Mandaluyong option was dropped. Replacing it was the so-called Katipunan option, the present subway route.

Only after the Katipunan option replaced Mandaluyong were surveys redone with the EDSA and Greenhills options. Comparative analyses were made. EDSA was to displace 120 persons; Greenhills, 320, and Katipunan, 1,490. Existing structures would need demolition: EDSA, 20; Greenhills, 170; Katipunan 320. Lengths of residential areas would be disturbed: EDSA, less than a kilometer; Greenhills, 2.54 km; Katipunan, 2.17 km. In terms of noise and vibrations from trains running underneath at 80 kph, EDSA was rated “[Existing] noise/vibration levels high; impacts likely to be minimal.” Greenhills and Katipunan were both described thus: “Passes many residential areas; impact on local people more serious than EDSA.”

Disaster studies were presented. The Greenhills route was found to be mostly away from the Valley Fault. EDSA was partly near but mostly away from the earthquake source. Katipunan was mostly towards and even crossed the earthquake line. In terms of floods, EDSA was deemed flood free. Greenhills was flood-prone. Initially surveyed as flood-free, Katipunan later was found to encounter at least two underground waterways and flood potentials. Placement of smoke, gas and noise vents would be tricky in the many residential areas along the Katipunan option, compared to already traffic-heavy EDSA.

In terms of costs: EDSA was lowest at P208 billion, Greenhills next at P210 billion, and Katipunan costliest at P218 billion – later raised to P227 billion.

JICA and the National Economic and Development Authority crafted a Roadmap Study, including subway, in Oct. 2013-Mar. 2014. JICA prepared subway pre-feasibility studies in Feb.-Sep. 2015, which the NEDA infrastructure committee approved. JICA went on to feasibility studies in Mar. 2016-Sep. 2017, approved in the Philippine-Japan Summit in Tokyo, Oct. 2017. All had to do with the EDSA, Greenhills and Mandaluyong options.

Up to Aug. 2016, steering committee meetings of the Dept. of Transportation, Dept. of Public Works and Highways, Bases Conversion and Development Authority, Metro Manila Development Authority, NEDA and JICA also dwelt on EDSA, Greenhills, and Mandaluyong.

In the Oct. 2016 meeting, the Katipunan option suddenly replaced the Mandaluyong. No justification or route comparison was submitted.

In Dec. 2016, DOTr wrote JICA rep Susumu Ito that the final decision supposedly was the Katipunan route. In the next steering meeting, Jan. 2017, there were no discussions of route evaluations. Succeeding meetings, both in Mar. 2017, dwelt on project name, logo, station locations, and depot.

So Katipunan it was to be. The EDSA option’s first three stations were adopted: Quirino Highway, Tandang Sora, North Avenue in Quezon City. Twelve new stops were added: Quezon Avenue, East Avenue, Anonas, and Katipunan Road at the boundary of Marikina and Quezon City; Ortigas North and Ortigas South in Pasig (part of the original EDSA route); Kalayaan, Makati; BGC, Lawton East, Lawton West, and FTI in Taguig; and Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal-3, Pasay City.

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