MANILA, Philippines – Amid backlash against the Build, Build, Build infrastructure program, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) urged critics to assess its success not just by considering the flagship projects but by looking at all infrastructure projects.
On Wednesday, November 20, the DOTr had the chance to highlight some of these projects. During the Senate floor deliberations on the DOTr's 2020 budget, Senator Grace Poe asked the agency to identify its top 3 accomplishments in the past 3 years.
Poe specifically asked for big-ticket projects that have been initiated and accomplished under the current administration.
Senator Win Gatchalian, speaking as the sponsor for the department's budget, relayed the agency's top achievements:
These projects did not actually fulfill Poe's criteria, since the first 3 projects were initiated before the term of President Rodrigo Duterte and the MRT3 rehabilitation project has not been completed.
But Poe only pointed out the latter, saying the MRT3 has not yet been fully rehabilitated. "I think after all the complication and major heartaches in the MRT, they are very happy that it has already begun," Gatchalian responded.
While dozens of big-ticket projects have yet to be completed, how have these accomplishments improved the transportation sector?
Communications, Navigation, Surveillance/Air Traffic Management System (CNS/ATM)
The project: The CNS/ATM is a computer and satellite-based system that improves aircraft identification, air traffic flow, and space management. The system also optimizes airport capacity and efficient airspace use.
Ultimately, the DOTr said that the CNS/ATM minimizes delays by enabling aircraft operators to stick to their departure and arrival schedules.
Cost: The CNS/ATM was valued at P13 billion, and was partly funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
Timeframe: The project started in 2009, approved during the term of then-president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. It faced construction delays and thus failed to achieve its target completion in 2016.
It was then targeted to be operational by June 2017, but was inaugurated on January 16, 2018.
Impact: According to the DOTr, only 3 radars were in operation in 2016, namely in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, in Clark, and in Tagaytay. This covered only 30% of the Philippine airspace, said the DOTr.
To date, one satellite radar and 10 radars have been added. The CNS/ATM now allows the air sector to cover the entire Philippine airspace.
Puerto Princesa International Airport expansion
The project: The expansion included a new terminal and a new 2,600-meter runway, which contained 6 parking bays and allowed for bigger aircrafts.
Cost: The airport terminal was valued at P4.5 billion. The improvement, rehabilitation, and expansion of the airport was funded by a loan agreement from the government of Korea.
Timeframe: The loan agreement for the Puerto Princesa Airport Development Project was signed in August 2012. Years later, the new terminal was inaugurated in May 2017.
Impact: Initially, the airport in Puerto Princesa covered 3,000 square meters, had a seating capacity of 800, and had 4 parking bays. The new passenger terminal covers 13,000 square meters, with a seating capacity of 1,500. The building also contains 200 car parking slots.
Cebu Pacific vice president for corporate affairs JR Mantaring said that the expansion will help increase tourist arrivals to Palawan, since the airport will be able to handle international flights.
Bohol-Panglao International Airport (BPIA)
The project: Lauded as the country's first eco-friendly airport, the BPIA replaced the Tagbilaran Airport in the province of Bohol. The airport mainly utilizes natural ventilation and solar energy.
Cost: In 2015, the Japanese government provided P8.91 billion in official development assistance to fund the airport's construction.
Timeframe: The completion of the airport took almost two decades. The feasibility study for the airport was conducted in 2000 and construction began in June 2015 during the term of then-president Benigno Aquino III.
The goal was to finish construction by June 2018 and make it operational by August 2018. The airport was finally inaugurated near the end of November 2018.
Impact: The BPIA can accommodate up to two million passengers annually, which is an increase from the Tagbilaran airport's 800,000 yearly capacity.
The airport is also night-rated, or allows flights during the evening, unlike the Tagbilaran Airport.
In line with its eco-friendly features, the airport's use of solar technology could prevent up to 18 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. A rainwater catchment system was also implemented, and collected rainwater will be utilized for domestic purposes.
In addition, 624,100 seedlings were planted on Bohol Island to make up for the trees that were cut in the construction site. According to the DOTr, 100 trees were planted for each indigenous tree cut during construction.
The project: Due to poor maintenance of the railway, the DOTr implemented a comprehensive rehabilitation, repair, and restoration of the MRT3, to be conducted by Sumitomo-Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.
The rehabilitation includes replacement of the MRT3 tracks, overhaul of 72 light rail vehicles, and repair of the power supply system, overhead catenary system, CCTV system, radio and public address system, signaling system, road-rail vehicles, depot equipment, elevators and escalators, and other station building equipment.
Cost: The rehabilitation will cost P22.06 billion. A Japanese loan will fund 80% of this amount, while the rest will be funded by the Philippine government.
Timeframe: In August 2018, the rehabilitation project was approved by the National Economic and Development Authority Board Investment Coordination Committee-Cabinet Committee. The deal between the Philippines and Japan was signed in November 2018.
Rail replacement works began in November 2019. As of November 21, 36 out of 46 escalator units have been made fully operational.
The rehabilitation is set to be completed by July 2021.
Impact: Once rehabilitation is complete, the MRT3's average workday ridership is expected to increase from 320,000 to 650,000 passengers.
With only 3 years left until the end of the Duterte administration, the transport agency has its work cut out for itself, with 71 transport and mobility projects still in the pipeline. (READ: LIST: Duterte's revised lineup of Build, Build, Build projects) – Rappler.com
Loreben Tuquero is a researcher-writer for Rappler. Before transferring to Rappler's Research team, she covered transportation, Quezon City, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government as a reporter. She graduated with a communication degree from the Ateneo de Manila University.