Restore subway to EDSA, QC councilors ask DOTr
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - October 18, 2019 - 12:00am

Put the Metro Manila subway in EDSA where most needed than in residential zones where unwanted. That can ensure timely launch during and continuity beyond President Duterte’s term.

Quezon City councilors made that plea to the Dept. of Transport in a public hearing Tuesday on the administration’s costliest infrastructure project. EDSA, short for E. delos Santos Avenue, is Metro Manila’s main artery linking central business districts of eight cities.

Citing subway studies, traffic experts, and barangay consultations, aldermen said an EDSA alignment would serve more commuters. On the other hand, private homeowners will resist eviction and disruption from constructing stations in their locales.

“EDSA, the most traffic-congested corridor in the Philippines, was bypassed,” Councilor Winston Castelo said of the subway alignment. Numerous decades-long studies by Japan International Cooperation Agency have focused on EDSA, he noted: “Why did DOTr divert the subway into minimal traffic residential areas, Anonas and Katipunan?”

The 36-km subway will have a depot in Ugong, Valenzuela City. Fifteen stations are to rise on Quirino-Mindanao, Tandang Sora, North, Quezon, East, Anonas, and Katipunan Avenues, QC; Ortigas-North and Ortigas-South, Pasig; Kalayaan, Makati; Bonifacio Global City, Lawton-East, Lawton-West, and Food Terminal Inc., Taguig; and Manila International Airport, Pasay.

Councilor Victor Ferrer foresaw legal opposition to stations in residential Anonas and Katipunan. Quiet gated subdivisions Blue Ridge, White Plains, St. Ignatius, Green Meadows, Corinthian Gardens, and Corinthian Hills lie along the route. Councilors Alan Francisco and Resty Malañgen asked that the EDSA alignment be restored. Dislocation will be less if the subway runs under highly commercial EDSA, to augment the surface-level MRT-3. City Engineer Bobby Paulino and Planning Officer Pedro Garcia said an EDSA subway would benefit workingmen.

Explaining the plan, Usec. for rails Timothy Batan said contracts were awarded Feb. for the first three QC stations. Engineering drawings are being detailed, for construction starting Jan. 2020. Quirino-Mindanao, Tandang Sora, and North Avenue stations will be running before Duterte steps down in mid-2022.

Batan said succeeding stations have yet to be contracted. Locations can still be altered, although time consuming. Castelo said delays would be longer and costs higher if anti-expropriation lawsuits drag. Ferrer worried that opposition can kill the subway after Duterte’s term, and jeopardize partial operation of the first three stations. In Katipunan in the 1990s, C-5 Highway paving was delayed for a decade. A protracted court case ended with rerouting to Libis, QC.

The subway faces hostility elsewhere. Parañaque homeowners are against a previously undisclosed Bicutan station in five neighborhoods. Batan said only 150 of 400 lot owners have consented to the Valenzuela depot; likewise, only 20 percent of those in Tandang Sora, QC.

Batan admitted that Katipunan-QC to FTI-Taguig was not the original route. JICA rail consultants had studied three other alignments: Greenhills-San Juan; Mandaluyong; and six kilometers of EDSA, sharing six stations with MRT-3. An EDSA subway onto MIA and Cavite was deemed best in ridership, environment and social impacts, and cost-effectiveness. A steering committee of DOTr, Dept. of Public Works, Bases Conversion and Development Authority, and Metro Manila Authority was shown many surveys from 2013 to 2017. The present Katipunan route will cost P360 billion, six times the yearly budget for transport works when DOTr suddenly approved it in Dec. 2016.

Castelo asked about the Katipunan alignment traversing the West Valley Fault Line. Chief scientist Arturo Daag, of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, said it would run 336 meters beside the earthquake fault. Damage from the 1990 Cabanatuan temblor were as far as Baguio and Manila hundreds of kilometers away, Castelo recalled.

As QC Council ways and means chairman, Ferrer also sought DOTr guarantee of local tax payments by the future subway operator. That’s to avoid any more legal tiffs, as City Hall has won a long-drawn tax case against rail concessions yet is still being questioned before the Supreme Court.

*      *      *

New Corrections bureau head Gerald Bantag’s first cleanup target were illegally-built huts at the National Penitentiary in Muntinlupa. He was demolishing one row of concrete bungalows Friday when an improvised bomb exploded in another compound meters away. The blast occurred inside one of several huts of Islamist terrorists, Bantag’s spokesman Maj. Alberto Tapiru narrated on Sapol radio show. They cannot say if it was accidental or intentional. But it proved Bantag’s point that privileged prisoners are able to stash contraband in the huts. Searches yielded two more rusty bombs and two grenades.

A succession of prisons bosses, mostly retired generals, had let moneyed convicts reign. Rights were sold with construction supplies. Gang bosses erected and equipped personal huts with air-conditioners, TVs, freezers, Wi-Fi, and steel safes. In the closing months of the past admin the Corrections chief was replaced while in the midst of weekly hut bulldozing. Most have since been rebuilt. Tapiru said they have confiscated knives, jewelry, cash, electric appliances, and communication gadgets.

Demolitions have left dozens of prisoners roofless. As regular cells are congested, they cry of having to sleep outdoors, under rain or sun. Of 47,000 convicts in seven penal colonies, 27,000 are in the Muntinlupa compound; 8,300 should be in maximum security.

*      *      *

“Himala, Isang Musikal” ends this weekend after a smashing two-month run. Based on the film classic by Ricky Lee and Ishmael Bernal, the plot swirls around a provincial lass whom barrio-mates look up to as miracle savior from their woeful lives. Songs, dramatic scenes, and orchestration blend into a unique soundscape. “A triumph of theater and music!” National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab noted. “Himala” the musical is the most awarded film-to-stage adaptation in Philippine theater history. After garnering eight Gawad Buhay awards in 2018, it was restaged to mark Sandbox Collective and 9 Works Theatrical’s fifth and tenth anniversaries. at PowerMac Center Spotlight, Circuit Makati.

For show times and tickets, contact Ticket World, www.ticketworld.com.ph; or Sandbox, 0956-2004909.

*      *      *

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

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

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