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Kahit may pandemya: DOTr claims Metro Manila Subway on track for partial reopening by December 2021

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MANILA – The construction of the Metro Manila Subway continues and is set for partial operability by December 2021 despite delays caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

During the virtual unveiling of a completed tunnel boring machine (TBM) in Japan on Friday, Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade said there will be delays in the implementation of the project but assured that there are no plans of stopping or suspending the project.

“Opo, may epekto ang pandemiya, pero hindi kami susuko (Yes, the pandemic is a challenge. But we will not give up). We will not bow our heads because of Covid-19,” Tugade said.

He said the project will begin partial operation from the Valenzuela station to the North Avenue station in Quezon City by December 2021, while the rest of the project is seen to be completed by 2024 or 2025.

“Bakit partial operability sa Valenzuela? Kasi ho nandiyan yung depot, nandiyan yung first station, at higit sa lahat, nandiyan ho yung Philippine Railway Institute sa Valenzuela (Why to begin partial operation in Valenzuela? Because there is the depot, the first station, at most of all, the Philippine Railway Institute in Valenzuela),” Tugade said.

Transportation Undersecretary Timothy “TJ” Batan said the challenges posed by the pandemic include social distancing during its construction and the requirements of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).

“’Yung requirement natin na magdagdag ng tao at mag-expand ng mga barracks. Para yung mga in-house na construction workers ng ating mga contractors can avoid ‘yung contact nila sa labas (The requirement to add more personnel and expand barracks. This would allow in-house construction workers to avoid outside contact),” Batan said.

Other challenges, he said, were the entry of foreign nationals and imported equipment for the project—eased through partnerships with the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Bureau of Immigration, and other government agencies.

“Masasabi natin na under ito ng ating tinatawag na one government approach ng (We can say this is made possible under the one government approach of the) Duterte Administration in the handling of the pandemic—and that extends to the implementation ng Build, Build, Build,” Batan said.

Tunnel boring machine unveiled

During the event, a tunnel boring machine (TBM) was unveiled—one of six TBMs that will be used for the partial operability phase of the project.

Batan said the first and second TBMs will arrive in the country in January and February of 2021 respectively—a fraction of the 25 TBMs in total that will be used to burrow the project’s 34 kilometers of tunnels.

Each TBM, he said, cost about PHP400 to PHP500 million as part of the contract with the project’s civil works contractor.

Tugade said the project is estimated to cost a total of PHP450 billion—out of which PHP290 billion was loaned by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

“Ito ho ay isang proyekto na pundado dahil meron na hong loan agreement yan sa JICA, at meron na rin provision yan (This is a project that is already funded because we have a loan agreement with JICA, and a provision for it has already been made),” Tugade said. (PNA)