An official described it as the “project of the century.” People tired of waiting for even a few kilometers of railways to be finished are hoping it won’t take a century before the proposed subway in “mega Manila” is completed, and still another century before it becomes operational.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said the 25-kilometer subway, to be financed with a $5-billion soft loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency, would be approved next month by the board of the National Economic and Development Authority where he is the director general.
Public works officials in the previous administration had pushed for a subway to ease traffic and improve mass transportation in Metro Manila. The officials brushed aside fears that a subway system would be flooded and vulnerable to earthquakes. Japan has an extensive subway and train system, despite sitting like the Philippines along the Pacific Ring of Fire and suffering from frequent cataclysmic earthquakes and tsunamis. Japan even operates railways built underwater.
Perhaps if Japan were to provide the financing and technological knowhow, a subway in Metro Manila would not be flooded regularly like the Quiapo underpass and Lagusnilad across the Manila City Hall, or be prone to breakdowns like the Metro Rail Transit 3. These facilities are among the reasons why Filipinos are skeptical about the viability of operating a subway in Metro Manila.
There are also concerns about the long-term inconvenience that construction of the project might bring to already traffic-choked Metro Manila. Planners are proposing to build the subway from Quezon City to Taguig, with 13 stations, to accommodate an initial 350,000 passengers daily.
If implemented properly and the subway functions as efficiently as those commonly seen in many other countries, it could encourage people to leave their cars at home. This could reduce vehicle volume along traffic-clogged EDSA. But in this country, it’s a long way from the approval of a plan to actual operation.
Metro Manila is in dire need of better mass transportation facilities. A subway could be one of the answers. But the plan could be doomed even at the awarding of the contract. The Duterte administration must see to it that no corruption scandal will derail this project. If this subway becomes a real “project of the century,” it’s cause for rejoicing for the riding public.