DPWH chief Villar: Metro traffic jam 'can be solved in 2-3 years'

DAILY STRUGGLE. Traffic on Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City. File photo by Joel Liporada/Rappler

DAILY STRUGGLE. Traffic on Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City.

File photo by Joel Liporada/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Metro Manila's traffic nightmare can be solved in 2 to 3 years, through major road infrastructure projects like the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX)-South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) Connector Road.

"It is a problem we can solve in 2 to 3 years, and I am not being too ambitious," Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Mark Villar said during the Financial Times-First Metro Philippines Investment Summit in Makati City on Tuesday, August 2.

The new DPWH chief said this will only be done if major road infrastructure projects, such as the NLEX-SLEX Connector Road and Manila Harbour Link, will move from newspaper advertisements to the tarmac.

From ads to tarmac

The P23.2-billion deal to build, operate, and maintain a toll road connecting NLEX and SLEX was secured by Manuel V. Pangilinan-led Metro Pacific Tollways Development Corporation (MPTDC), after no companies matched its offer.

MPTDC president and CEO Rodrigo Franco told Rappler that his company "expects to receive the notice of award before the end of the month."

Because of the changes in the mode of implementation, Franco said implementation of the road deal will be scheduled from November 2016 to February 2022.

The NLEX-SLEX Connector Road would link C3 in Caloocan City to the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) campus in Sta Mesa, Manila. (READ: Delayed right-of-way acquisition takes a toll on NLEX Harbor Link)

Meanwhile, the Harbour Link project consists of Segments 9 and 10.

Segment 9 directly connects Mindanao Avenue in Quezon City to MacArthur Highway in Valenzuela City, while Segment 10, upon completion, will start from MacArthur Highway and run through C3 or 5th Avenue in Caloocan City.

The concessionaire of this road deal is also MPTDC, which expects to complete the project in December 2016.

"We attract more foreign investment by creating a steady, stable business environment. That starts with respecting contracts," Villar said.

"Rest assured that the biggest hurdle, political will, is something that the President (Rodrigo Duterte) has a lot of," he said. 

A report by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) showed the financial cost of the Metro Manila traffic jam would continue to rise if adequate solutions to ease congestion are not implemented.

JICA said the Philippines stands to lose up to P6 billion a day by 2030 because of worsening traffic jams.

"Change is here and it will be felt very, very soon," Villar said. – Rappler.com