Valenzuela lot owners also plead with Rody vs subway
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - November 8, 2019 - 12:00am

VP Leni’s rooters think she fell for a trap in accepting Prez Rody’s offer to co-chair his antidrug war. Allegedly he will set her up to fail like him, and so drag her down politically. Conspiracy theorists even foresee Leni falsely linked to narcos. This has to do with police colonel Eduardo Acierto, hunted for last year’s shabu smuggling past Customs-Manila in metal cylinders. The fugitive cop popped up during last May’s election campaign, implicated two Rody Chinese pals to drugs, then disappeared – an act Rody blamed on Leni’s opposition camp.

Rody’s side is not without its own worriers. They read in Leni’s stated wish to save drug users a plot to gather evidence against Rody for the UN criminal court case. She could also blacken Rody by demanding indictment of two ex-Customs chief-friends for the entry of hundreds of tons of shabu.

Behind their speculations is the fact that shabu proliferates as ever. And to defeat drugs, two co-heads are better than one.

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“Save us from needless eviction.” Not only middle-class Parañaque homeowners are begging Malacañang to use nearby alternative sites for a Metro Manila subway. Lot owners in Valenzuela too are pointing to President Rody Duterte cheaper adjacent lands for the modern railway.

Eviction from their well-developed lots in Barangay Ugong will doom their future, the Valenzuelans say. Their 32-hectare village is four times oversized for a depot. It would cost government incalculable sums to expropriate them. Thousands of residents, businessmen, and employees would be displaced. Yet just beside it are abandoned factories and a largely vacant subdivision with much cheaper land values.

Valenzuela and Parañaque cities are at the north and south ends of the national capital region. A 36-km, 15-station subway is to be built between them, via Quezon, Pasig, Makati, Taguig, and Pasay c         ities. At P357 billion, the underground rail will traverse earthquake fault and flood lines. Japan International Cooperation Agency is lending P52 billion, 2018-2025, but works have yet to start.

Over 600 Valenzuela titled lot and business owners, dwellers, and workers wrote Duterte on June 22, 2017. They see haphazard planning, as Dept. of Transport consultants first wanted 27, then 30, and of late 32 hectares as depot. Decrying unnecessary displacement, they cited four reasons against expropriation:

• The 27 hectares is unjustified. JICA studies approximated only 16 at most, for 200 train cars. LRT-1 commuter rail’s depot, for 130 cars, is 7.76 hectares. LRT-2’s, for 144 cars in future, is 8.8 hectares. MRT-3’s, for 120 prospective cars, is 8.4 hectares. In Japan, Sendai MRT subway depot, 84 cars, is 8.8 hectares; Fukuoka airport subway depot, 108 cars, is 6.15 hectares; and LRT Fukuoka subway Nunaku, starting with 68 cars, 7.9 hectares. Six Japanese monorails, 34 to 92 cars each, less than five hectares; two city trains, 85 and 156 cars, seven and 5.6 hectares; magnetic levitation, 24 cars, 3.5 hectares.

• The depot will devalue 2.5 km of highway (Mindanao Avenue) frontage. LRT-1 depot frontage along high-value Airport Road, Pasay, is only 200 meters. LRT-2’s frontage along Marcos Highway, QC, is 500 meters. MRT-3’s depot at North Avenue, QC, is underground, so no wasted at-grade commercial space.

• Barangay Ugong is industrial-commercial, with residences at the fringes. There are a car assembly, factories, picnic resorts, office and condo buildings, restaurants, gas stations, schools, churches, hospitals. “There is no way the owners can be compensated fairly if their land and growing businesses are taken away.” (A lot sold in 2013 for P38,000 per sqm. At that old rate, expropriating 320,000 sqm would cost P12.16 billion, excluding business opportunity losses. That’s one-sixth the government’s entire transport infrastructure budget – land, sea, air, and rail – for 2019.)

• There are cheaper alternative sites. Just across the boundary in Caloocan City, along General Luis Road, is being sold a residential subdivision, P9,000 per sqm. It already has water, sewer, and electricity lines. Only a few lots have been bought and houses built. Squatters at the edge presently are being relocated. That crossroad of Caloocan, Valenzuela, QC, and Novaliches sub-city is near where a subway station-Phase 2 will rise. There are no disaster risks like flood and fault lines. An underground depot, like MRT-3 in QC, and in Osaka and Kobe metros, can also be built.

The Valenzuelans expressed support for Duterte’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure projects. Thus they informed him of cheaper lands actually for sale, easier acquisition.

Their plight is similar to Parañaque residents who, in an Oct. 2019 letter to Duterte, pointed to three government lots as rail options. DOTr’s policy is to use government lots as much as possible as stations, while JICA’s is to minimize socioeconomic dislocations and costs.

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The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines is working to become the strongest power grid in Southern Asia. By end-2019, it will have a total investment of P188 billion into the government’s aging transmission system in the last decade, NGCP says. For 2020 to 2030 another P463 billion has been set aside to further modernize, improve and expand its network.

 All told, from 2010 to 2030, NGCP would have sunk in P651 billion in the grid. Had transmission services not been privatized, government would have spent this amount. That is, if it was efficient. In effect, the government saved that amount.

NGCP is on-track to complete the Mindanao-Visayas Interconnection Project, the largest energy infrastructure in Philippine  history. The long-term plan is to connect the grid to Asean neighbors. That will ensure energy sufficiency and complementation.

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