Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade reported on the 26th of April 2021, the transport projects and initiatives accomplished by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) since 2016, and emphasized that it will continue to fulfill the promise of President Duterte to provide a comfortable life for Filipinos.
Secretary Tugade was one of the country’s chief infrastructure managers who reported in the second session of the virtual “Sulong Pilipinas” 2021: Partners for Progress (A Pre-SONA Economic Development and Infrastructure Clusters Forum).
During the forum, which was conducted in preparation for the 6th State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Duterte, Tugade recounted the previous sorry state of public transportation, as well as the delayed transport programs when he took over as the DOTr Secretary in 2016.
“When the Duterte administration took office in mid-2016, we were greeted with numerous long-standing issues that have tormented the country for years, and even decades. I remember fully well when we were only starting to take on the challenge five (5) years ago. The Filipino people have pinned their hopes on the new administration then – with eyes intently and critically watching us on what we would do next,” Tugade said.
Tugade enumerated the reality issues before such as the “Laglag Bala” at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), the issuance of paper driver’s licenses, the country being known as “Republikang Walang Plaka,” and the traffic congestion dubbed as “EDSA Carmageddon.”
“Noon, ang pagbiyahe sa EDSA ay itinuturing na matinding pakikidigma. The traffic congestion was worsened by illegal terminals, buses loading and unloading anywhere they want. Halu-halo ang mga sasakyan, at kapansin-pansin din na walang bike lane para sa mga siklista,” Tugade said.
“MRT-3 was compared to the horror movie “Train to Busan,” and was even called “MRTirik” as passengers were pestered by daily numerous breakdowns, unloading incidents, train derailment, and hours of waiting time between trains. Worse, kung tumirik ang tren, ang mga pasahero, no choice kundi maglakad sa riles,” Tugade added.
The Transportation Chief further recounted the bad state of the transportation sector five years ago. He said that before, numerous rail projects that were left hanging, various seaports and airports devastated by calamities such as Typhoon Yolanda and the Bohol earthquake, lack of progress in vital international airports, and the condition of Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) lighthouses, as well as its outdated and insufficient maritime security assets.
After enumerating the sorry state of the transportation sector before the Duterte administration came in, Tugade then reported the status of these long-standing issues after five years.
Tugade reported that there is no more Laglag-Bala in NAIA, and that initiatives such as the upgrade and improvement of the NAIA are already being undertaken, which resulted in the rehabilitation of the airport’s runway and the inauguration of its new taxiways. Meanwhile, the Land Transportation Office (LTO) rolled out new driver’s license plastic (5) cards that are valid for five years and has distributed more than 3 million motor vehicle plates.
Secretary Tugade also shared the establishment of the EDSA Busway and bike lanes to promote active transportation. To ensure the safety of cyclists and other road users, 296 kilometers of bike lanes have been completed with pavement markings, bollards, and solar studs. The DOTr aims to complete 535 kilometers of bike lanes in Metro Manila, Cebu, and Davao before the year ends.
Railway sector achievements
During the forum, the transport chief announced that the massive MRT-3 rehabilitation will be completed by December this year. Currently, the railway runs at 60 kilometers per hour, with waiting time between trains at just 3.5 minutes, and with an all-time high of 23 operational trains. Tugade added that the MRT-3 is now cooler with new air conditioning units.
“Kung dati, nagrereklamo ang mga tao na sobrang init, ngayon, ang reklamo ng tao, sobrang lamig ng tren ng MRT-3,” Tugade remarked.
Further, the DOTr is now working on some long-delayed rail projects. These include the Metro Manila Subway, the country’s first underground railway system. First conceived in 1973, actual construction only began in 2019. Parts of the massive tunnel boring machines (TBMs) have arrived for the start of the underground works within the year.
“Dumating na po ang TBM Kaunlaran at TBM Perlas ng Silangan,” Tugade said.
In addition, Tugade said that the LRT-1 Cavite Extension, which was delayed for 19 years, as well as the Manila to Clark Railway, which was planned in 1993, are undergoing full-blast construction. The Secretary also reported that essential facilities of PNR Clark Phase 1 are scheduled for completion in the fourth quarter of 2021. The Philippine National Railways (PNR) was also able to procure new and modern trains for the first time in 50 years.
Other projects that the DOTr is now completing are the MRT-7, which is currently halfway complete, and the Mindanao Railway Project, which is now approved by the NEDA Board. Tugade also shared that the LRT-2 East Extension is set for inauguration in June, while the Common Station will be finally partially operable by the fourth quarter of this year.
Soaring Aviation sector
Secretary Tugade reported that from 2016 to the present, the DOTr Aviation Sector has completed a total of 121 airport projects. These projects include the Bohol-Panglao International Airport, which was inaugurated in 2018, and the Bicol International Airport with a current progress rate of almost 80%.
The DOTr has also completed the Mactan-Cebu International Airport and the world-class Passenger Terminal Building II of the Clark International Airport. Other notable airport projects of the DOTr Aviation sector include the development projects in General Santos, Kalibo, Virac, Camiguin, Ormoc, Tacloban, and Calbayog Airports.
“Yung Ormoc, ladies and gentlemen, halos wala nang bubong ‘yan noong aming nadatnan. Nasira pa ‘yan noong Bagyong Yolanda at hindi man lamang nakatikim ng ginhawa. Inayos po natin ‘yan,” Tugade reported.
Restored Maritime infrastructures
From 2016 to the present, the DOTr and the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) were able to complete 426 seaport projects nationwide. These include the Cagayan de Oro Port’s Passenger Terminal Building (PTB) – the biggest port terminal in the country.
Tugade added that the Ormoc and Tacloban Ports, as well as the Tagbilaran and Maribojoc Ports, damaged by the Super Typhoon Yolanda and the strong earthquake in 2013, were restored.
“Kung nakita ninyo ang Maribojoc Port noong 2017, maaawa kayo. Durog ho ang kalsada. Nasira ho ito noon pang lindol at naiwang kalunos-lunos ang estado. Ngayon ho, 95% complete na, at tatapusin ho naming ‘yan end of May this year,” Tugade added.
On maritime safety, the DOTr continues to modernize the country’s lighthouses. From only 113 in 2014, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has hugely increased the number of operational lighthouses to 600 as of March 2021. The PCG also acquired modern and high-tech equipment, not only for border patrol, but also for search and rescue operations, as well as humanitarian service.
*Mobility during the pandemic*
With the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for physical distancing made it necessary to limit transport capacity. Thus, Secretary Tugade said the Free Ride Program of the DOTr for health workers and Authorized Persons Outside their Residence (APORs) was established to ensure the mobility and safety of frontliners and essential workers.
Tugade further reported that as of 12 April 2021, the operational public utility vehicles (PUVs) in Metro Manila are already at 80%, equating to 99,000 units available in 727 routes. As of 23 April 2021, the DOTr has already opened 5,803 routes complemented by 234,939 PUV units. Tugade added that the LTFRB has opened 60 more jeepney routes with 2,000 operating units in Metro Manila. He further said that 195 provincial bus routes were also opened with more than 2,600 provincial bus units to and from Metro Manila, subject to requirements of the local government units.
At the end of his presentation, Secretary Tugade assured that the achievements will not stop the DOTr and its attached agencies from finishing what has been started. He emphasized that the completed and ongoing transport projects and initiatives are the realizations of President Duterte’s promise of comfortable and convenient life to Filipinos.
“With barely a year left before we step down, we will exert all efforts to finish what we have started, fulfill what we have promised, and deliver what we have envisioned,” Tugade affirmed.