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Opinion

Finally, modern mass transit

PERCEPTIONS - Ariel Nepomuceno - The Philippine Star

An efficient modern mass transport system is vital to our country’s progress and competitiveness. This is an indispensable requirement for the growth of our economy.

The recent ground-breaking on Oct. 3, 2022, of the Metro-Manila Subway Project (MMSP) by no less than our new President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and the Department of Transportation (DOTR) Secretary Jaime Bautista augurs well for a nation that is beset with myriads of challenges. The vision of at least half a million commuters conveniently riding the underground trains daily is enough to inspire us and enjoy a sense of hope that we are progressing.

But vigilance is urgent. Any good plan is only as good as its implementation. In this regard, the Palace, the top leadership of DOTr, and the general public must fully observe how this project goes. We must avoid the pitfalls that plagued the above-ground train systems such as the LRTA, particularly their maintenance issues.

Our treasury will be heavily indebted with this undertaking dubbed as the “project of the century.” A P448.47-billion loan from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the implementing arm of the Japanese Official Development Aid (ODA), is needed to finance this gargantuan task. Meaning, this will be an additional burden to our bloating national debt, which is now   almost P13 trillion as of July 2022.

The staggering amount to finance MMSP is more than enough for us to demand and expect that utmost professionalism shall be rendered by the project managers of the DOTr. There must be no hitches or alibis in the successful rollout of this project. Corruption and incompetence must not ruin and get in the way of building the 33-kilometer railway track and its 17 stations that will serve the best interest of the public beginning 2025 for its partial opening and 2028 or 2029 for the full operations.

In fact, this project has already been delayed, if we are to consider the public pronouncement through the news, of the former leader of the DOTr, secretary Art Tugade, that the Metro-Manila Subway Project would be partially operational by the last quarter of 2021.

Hurdles, such as the road right of way, must be properly handled in time for the unhampered construction underneath our roads and communities from Mindanao Avenue to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City where the MMSP is designed to traverse.

The benefits can overshadow the cost. At a glance, the extremely high cost in building this project would discourage us to even pursue it. The P448.47-billion loan will be paid for by generations of Filipinos through the years through automatic appropriations in our annual budget.

However, we shall also benefit once this subway project is in place. Social mobility and economic improvements are the natural consequences of this asset.

Aside from the collective prestige that comes along, a subway system revitalizes the business and commercial districts that are linked by the trains. The employees become more productive and automatically could save on their daily cost of living. Such accumulated savings can be diverted for other more important expenses such as health products and food. The time that will be saved individually is immeasurably huge through the years.

MMSP will also allow businesses to tap into a larger and more diverse workforce.  This will result in a more vibrant and competitive human resource that is strategically important to enterprises.

Inevitably, the valuation of properties within the routes and the nearby areas would increase because of the developments due to improved activities. Cities and municipalities will be more connected while urban and rural areas will have faster integration. Eventually, urban congestion will also be diminished because developments will be decentralized.

The decrease in private cars running on our roads when more commuters opt to ride the subway trains could also address the ongoing air pollution problem. Energy will also be conserved because less fuel will be utilized by cars, which would end up being used sparingly by their owners who can eventually appreciate the advantages of taking the subway trains to and from their work.

The MMSP, along with other mass transport systems such as those being managed by the Philippine National Railways under the leadership of Mr. Jeremy Regino who’s known for being a no nonsense executive, will help catapult our economy to be at par with our neighbors.

We must ensure that this project is handled well and without any hidden vested interest on the part of the implementers.

ECONOMY

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