Poor planning? Three gov’t lots overlooked as subway station
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (Philstar.com) - October 9, 2019 - 12:00am

Three spacious government lands can host a Metro Manila subway south station rather than evict homeowners. If state property is used, there would be no need to uproot or disrupt homes, schools, and shops at huge costs. The Parañaque city council was told about this Wed. to spare private houses and lots from expropriation.

The government lands are adjacent to subdivisions targeted for eviction. How come those were overlooked? Poor planning shows in the subway realignment from Quezon to Taguig Cities. It perilously will cross the West Valley Fault Line and flood zones. Compared to other routes, it will serve less commuters yet cost the most, rail studies say. A Senate committee is looking to have the works suspended until a traffic master plan is submitted.

The very subway proponent Dept. of Transportation owns one of the lots. Others are the state firm Philippine National Construction Co. and Dept. of Agriculture.

The lots can be alternative sites for a previously unannounced “Bicutan station” in Parañaque, bordering Taguig. The DOTr policy is to avoid displacing residences and livelihoods. Dislocation can be averted in middle-class United Hills Village, East Service Road, Makati South Hills, United Parañaque Subdivision-2, and Malugay.

All in Barangay San Martin de Porres, dwellers stressed they are not against progress. They oppose incursion into their private property.

Parañaque Vice Mayor Rico Golez held a forum, with Councilors Giovanni Esplana, Edwin Benzon, Viktor Sotto, Pablo Gabriel Jr., and city legal officer Rommel Frias. Citing the Local Government Code that requires hearings on disruptive projects, barangay chairman Michael Thor Singson brought the issue to their attention.

Residents and businessmen told The Star the DOTr and PNCC lots are about six hectares. The area approximates what DOTr wants to take from adjoining private owners. An abandoned lot of Gelmart Enterprises also can be expropriated instead.

The original south-end station is Food Terminal Inc. in Taguig, one km away. “Bicutan” belatedly was included to link the subway with the Philippine National Railways ground-level commuter train and a bus-jitney-taxi terminal. In which case, residents said, the hub should be right inside FTI-Taguig, instead of Parañaque. There the DA’s 27-hectare land is more than sufficient.

At the forum Councilor Esplana, a civil engineer, suggested that DOTr and Japan International Cooperation Agency look into tunneling underneath the PNR railroad or South Luzon Expressway. That would avert fumes, heat, noise, and ground shakes in residential zones during subway construction and operation.

DOTr Asst. Sec. for rails Eymard Eje and project manager Mikaela Mendoza promised to look into the alternatives. JICA reps present could not give the decibels and intensity of the expected noise and vibrations.

When first informed of the subway in early 2019, Singson said, only 20 shops were to be dislocated. Now 200 homes would be too. When first notified of expropriation in Aug., residents added, the Bicutan station would eat 70 meters into United Hills Village. Meeting them a month later Usec. for rails Timothy John Batan said only 25 meters would be encroached.

Uncertainty over station sites, widths, and disruption levels incites fears of haphazardness. Official documents indicate rushed preparations.

In planning a Metro Manila subway starting 2013 dozens of JICA rail experts considered three other options. By mid-2016 studies were detailed for alignments under EDSA to complement the surface-level MRT-3: Greenhills, San Juan, to C3; and Mandaluyong. EDSA emerged as most advantageous in ridership, environment and social impact, disaster risk, and cost. It was to begin in Quirino Highway-Mindanao Avenue onto EDSA-Taft Avenue, extendable north to San Jose del Monte, Bulacan, and south to Dasmariñas, Cavite. JICA was to lend part of construction funds.

In Dec. 2016 DOTr suddenly wrote JICA that the alignment was to veer instead to Katipunan Avenue, QC, onto FTI, Taguig. The steering committee of DOTr, JICA, Dept. of Public Works, Bases Conversion Development Authority, and Metro Manila Authority thence dumped Mandaluyong for a “Katipunan option”.

Katipunan was deemed inferior. Crossing a major fault line it would be vulnerable to earthquake and liquefaction. Flood zones exposed by 2009’s Super Storm Ondoy also would be traversed. To be displaced are 320 offices and 1,490 homes, each with six dwellers, not yet counting Bicutan.

DOTr broke ground Feb. for the first three stations: Quirino-Mindanao, Tandang Sora, and North Avenues, QC. The P227-billion estimate in 2017 has since swelled to P357 billion.

As chairwoman for public services Sen. Grace Poe contemplates a review: “We’ve learned there are subway stops that were not in the original proposal. So it appears there were additions made. We have to find out if this is cost-effective, more practical, or cause trouble.”

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“Himala, Isang Musikal” is drawing raves as viewers identify with the longing for miracle against misery. Based on the film classic by Ricky Lee and Ishmael Bernal, the plot swirls around young Elsa whom barrio-mates look up to as savior from their woeful lives. “A triumph of theater and music!” National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab remarked. Songs, dramatic scenes, and orchestration rivet audiences in unique soundscape.

The musical broke records as the most awarded film-to-stage adaptation in Philippine theater history. It garnered eight Gawad Buhay awards in 2018, including Best Musical and Best Actress for Aicelle Santos. Music by Vincent A. de Jesus, libretto and lyrics by Ricky Lee.

“Himala, Isang Musikal” returns to celebrate Sandbox Collective and 9 Works Theatrical’s fifth and tenth anniversaries, respectively. Toff de Venecia helps run both troupes.

Last two weekends till Oct. 20, main showings at 8 p.m. and matinees at 3 p.m., PowerMac Center Spotlight, Circuit Makati (be at the venue early). Tickets are available on Ticket World, www.ticketworld.com.ph; Sandbox, 0956 2004909; and at the box office.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Gotcha archives: www.philstar.com/columns/134276/gotcha

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