Manila gets 2 unsolicited railway proposals

MANILA, Philippines – How about railways in the City of Manila?

At the Senate hearing on the local government transportation bill on Monday, September 16, Manila legal officer Michelle Lapuz said the city has received two unsolicited railway proposals.

These are the following:

In a phone interview, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno's chief of staff Cesar Chavez told Rappler that these companies submitted letters of intent.

"There's only one proponent with the alignment and a concept. This is the Tondo-Binondo-Sta Cruz. The proponent is credible, it has a good track record, but we're not taking this seriously yet because they have yet to conduct a feasibility study," Chavez said.

Germany-based TUV Rheinland was earlier tapped by the government to evaluate the unused Dalian trains for the Metro Rail Transit Line 3. Its planned sky shuttle with the China-based BYD Company is an elevated railway system traversing Tondo, Binondo, and Sta Cruz.

Meanwhile, Chavez said the other group wants an at-grade tram along the service road of Roxas Boulevard, crossing Kalaw Avenue, up to Liwasang Bonifacio. Chavez said the proponents of the Roxas Boulevard tram system are the same concessionaires for the Makati Subway project.

The groups' next step is to submit a feasibility study. That's when the city will entertain the proposals seriously, Chavez said.

Under Manila's joint venture (JV) ordinance, public-private partnership (PPP) proposals have to be evaluated after the submission of a feasibility study. Chavez said the city government would create a JV committee to evaluate the technical aspect of a proposal, and then its financial viability.

Once a project is deemed viable, the Manila City government will award the original proponent status. When contract negotiations are completed, the city will hold a local Swiss challenge to invite other private groups to make competing offers, but the original proponent has the right to match them.

At the hearing, Lapuz said the process should be completed within 2 to 3 years. Chavez said the construction will likely take 3 more years after that, depending on the seriousness of the proponents to submit the requirements needed.

"We will not give them a deadline since this is an unsolicited proposal. It depends on their [feasibility study]. The burden is on the proponent," Chavez said.

Citing his previous experience as a railway official, Chavez said the process is faster in the local government.

"Construction may take about 3 years, but it's still shorter if you compare it to national government projects," he said.

Intercity transport

Senator Francis Tolentino, chairman of the Senate local government committee, said Manila should also consider asking the proponents to "expand" the coverage of their proposals.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT. Senator Francis Tolentino proposes Senate Bill No. 1012, which seeks to expand the power of highly urbanized cities to acquire mass transport systems. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

LOCAL GOVERNMENT. Senator Francis Tolentino proposes Senate Bill No. 1012, which seeks to expand the power of highly urbanized cities to acquire mass transport systems.

Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

"Tama 'yung intercity lang. 'Di na kailangan lumayo pa sa Manila. (Intercity is a good proposal. It doesn't have to be far from Manila.) They can connect with Navotas," Tolentino suggested.

Meanwhile, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian proposed that cities be "clustered" in terms of local transportation plans.

He said the Caloocan-Malabon-Navotas-Valenzuela (Camanava) area on its own should have a mass transport system circling the jurisdiction.

"We don't need to go to NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority). It can be an investor through PPP and [we can] launch it as fast as we can," Gatchalian said. – with a report from Rambo Talabong/Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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