Interview: Arthur P Tugade

At what stages are the 75 infrastructure projects outlined in the Build, Build, Build (BBB) programme?

ARTHUR P TUGADE: Under the current administration, we are confident that the Department of Transportation (DOTr) is able to ensure smooth project implementation, despite delays in the past. Multiple BBB projects, including the new terminal in Mactan-Cebu International Airport and the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange, were inaugurated in 2018. There are also many key projects in various implementation stages, such as the Metro Manila Subway Project; the Tutuban-Malolos line of the Philippine National Railways (PNR); and the Malolos-Clark line of the PNR.

In what ways does official development assistance (ODA) affect the execution of BBB projects?

TUGADE: The DOTr has recently favoured a hybrid financing structure in implementing big-ticket projects: public funds – made available by ODA or the General Appropriations Act – are utilised for construction, while the private sector is tasked with operation and maintenance. For big-ticket projects, concessional loans and grants through ODA are used due to their softer financing conditions, including lower interest rates and longer payment terms. ODA has also allowed the country to tap foreign experts for knowledge transfer, aiding Filipino contractors and consultants in terms of new methods and technologies.

Which projects can help to decentralise growth?

TUGADE: The current priority is to increase connectivity by building a true multi-modal transport network. International airports have been improved and expanded, while there have been continuous efforts to upgrade local airports for night-time operations and to make air travel more accessible. There are also ongoing projects to expand and upgrade various seaports, which will also benefit freight operations. Lastly, various rail lines are in the pipeline, and there is an evaluation under way of the potential for additional lines to efficiently connect urban centres with adjacent provinces. The ultimate goal of these projects is to decongest our cities and spur development throughout the Philippines.

How can regulatory reform support domestic transportation network companies (TNCs)?

TUGADE: Department Order No. 2018-013 recognises the role played by TNCs and transport network vehicle services (TNVS) in the provision of alternative public transportation. As such, the DOTr has given full authority to the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to regulate TNCs to ensure the safety of commuters. Moreover, the LTFRB has been mandated to conduct hearings and consultations to explore new technology-based services for public transportation before it implements such services.

What kinds of transit initiatives can mitigate pollution and promote environmental sustainability?

TUGADE: Convincing commuters to move away from private car usage will go a long way towards decreasing emissions. With that in mind, the DOTr has spearheaded several projects to promote transit-oriented development. Projects like the Manila Light Rail Transit extension and the Metro Manila Subway will provide a greater number of mass transit options, while there are projects in the works to improve non-motorised transport infrastructure, such as greenways, bicycle and motorcycle lanes, and sidewalks.

The DOTr has implemented policies to decrease emissions. The Omnibus Franchising Guidelines under the Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) Modernisation Programme promote the use of PUVs with electric or combustion engines that comply with Euro IV emission standards. Age limits were established based on the vehicle’s oldest major part, as opposed to the year of its initial registration or importation. This will better ensure vehicles’ road worthiness, mitigating their environmental impact.