Interview: Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya
How can access to and from Metro Manila into the provinces be enhanced to ensure inclusive growth and development at a nationwide level?
JOSEPH EMILIO AGUINALDO ABAYA: Our aim is to develop convenient, affordable, reliable, efficient and safe transportation networks which are not only focused on Metro Manila, but also between other key hubs across the country. Ensuring accessibility is crucial to socio-economic development and is one of the DoTC’s main goals. Historically, effective transportation systems enhance accessibility, and facilitating access is a driver for growth and development. We therefore need to invest in more infrastructure projects to improve accessibility.
For example, railroads have been a vital driver for progress by empowering farmers, fisherfolk and other workers in the countryside to deliver their produce to consumer markets. This results in the creation of wealth at the grassroots level and, at the same time, encourages economic activity throughout the value chain. This is why we are reviving the old 700-km Philippine National Railway, which will connect the northern and southern ends of Luzon. It will connect many agriculturally rich areas with each other, as well as with Metro Manila, which is the country’s largest consumer hub.
What gateway airports and seaports should be prioritised to complement existing economic momentum and tourism growth?
ABAYA: Our main airport is the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Metro Manila, which needs to have increased access to international traffic. To do this, we will build a new passenger terminal building, and maximise the number of aircraft movements per hour at the airport from 40 to 50 events. Over the long term, we are already looking for alternative sites to NAIA in anticipation for further growth in passenger throughput in the next 30 to 40 years.
The Clark International Airport (CIA), which is located less than 100 km north of Metro Manila, will continue to handle those flights which NAIA cannot accommodate. We will expand CIA’s passenger terminal building size from 11,000 sq metres to 17,000 by February of 2014. We are also preparing to build a 45,000-sq-metre budget passenger terminal building.
On a regional scale, we are already opening up many of our airports for broader international access. Airports at many of the popular destinations in our tourism belt will be opened to international flights, such as the Puerto Princesa Airport in Palawan, the Panglao Airport in Central Visayas, the Bacolod-Silay Airport and Iloilo Airport in Western Visayas, and the Laguindingan Airport in northern Mindanao.
With respect to seaports, we want to decongest the Manila Port and encourage traffic in the Batangas Port and the Subic Port north of Metro Manila. We are looking at setting a maximum cap for the Manila Port and will be promoting incentives such as lowering handling costs for shippers in Batangas and Subic. The DoTC will also expand the Davao Sasa Port in Mindanao, which is one of the country’s busiest ports and which handles major export products. We are looking at relocating the Cebu Port within the next five years as well.
What urban mass transport system would offer the best value proposition to alleviate congestion and population growth in Metro Manila?
ABAYA: There are two projects that we believe will best address these concerns. First, the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system is most viable on a value-for-money basis, since it is a substantially cheaper alternative to railways. It will provide efficient use of road space and improve urban mobility, and has been proven to be highly effective in other densely populated countries such as Colombia, Brazil, China and South Korea.
On a volume basis, the North-South Commuter Line is the best option. This is a 90-km mostly-elevated rail system from Bulacan province north of Metro Manila to Laguna province in the south. The North-South Commuter Line will have 10 car-trains able to transport between 700,000 to 800,000 passengers per day.
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