Amid the pandemic, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) is staging a revolution in the Philippines’ transport infrastructure. 

The massive overhaul and modernization will bring the present decrepit and fossilized transport system into the 21st century to ensure fast, reliable and reasonably priced mobility to the greater masses of the people.

“The transportation sector has been one of the primary victims of COVID-19. From air, road, railways, to sea travels, all have been suffering from the outbreak’s disproportionate economic impacts. Consequently, the Philippine transportation sector was not spared,” said DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade.

To meet the pandemic challenge, Tugade said “various initiatives have been implemented to surmount present challenges and help the country’s economy recover.”

DOTr then launched a mission to revolutionize mobility to keep up with the changing times and shape the country’s transport system into one that is resilient and adaptable to the future.

Accordingly, DOTr embraced digitalization and harnessed best practices in technology in all of our four sectors, namely, the Aviation and Airports, Railways, Road, and Maritime.  The idea is “deliver swift agency processes and limit human intervention for the safety of the people,” explained Tugade.  The DOTr went on building what he calls assets or infrastructure projects.

DOTr has adopted for its battlecry: Respond. Recover. Thrive.

“These words will be our guiding principle moving forward. And we look ahead to a future that sees the Filipino people enjoying the comfortable life they deserve,” said Tugade.

Among the major transport projects are: completion of the first two segments of the massive North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR) which connects Manila Tutuban main railway station to Clark Aerotropolis; full operations of the long-delayed MRT 2 East Station in Masinag, Antipolo; and completion or near-completion of the following: MRT-3 Rehabilitation, Common Station, LRT-1 Cavite Extension, MRT-7, PNR Clark Phase 1, key facilities of the Metro Manila Subway Project, and the Mindanao Rail Project.

“We have a lot of catching up to do,” said Tugade, rationalizing the feverish pace of the projects despite pandemic restrictions. “I want the people to enjoy these projects asap.”

Key to revolutionizing mobility

For the DOTr, railway development is key in revolutionizing mobility. DOTr aims to move the bulk of our commuters off the road to rail lines to help decongest traffic.

From only 77 kilometers when the administration took over in 2016, Tugade will expand the country’s operational railway length to 1,200 kilometers before the end of Duterte’s term in 2022 and beyond. 

Miracle worker

This will make Tugade a miracle worker, for which millions of commuters in Luzon will be thankful forever.

Currently, six railway projects are ongoing, one undergoing massive rehabilitation, and seven more are in the pipeline.

PNR opens Tutuban-Malolos in 2024

The NSCR’s first leg, the PNR Clark Phase 1 runs from Tutuban, Manila to Malolos, Bulacan.  As of February this year, it was 43% complete, nearly four times the 11.78% completion in January 2021. Tugade says the Tutuban-Malolos line will be partially operable in the fourth quarter this year; full operations will be in the second quarter of 2024.

Philippine National Railways GM Junn Magno told Tugade that the PNR Clark Phase 1 will slash travel time between Tutuban and Malolos from 1 hour and 30 minutes to just 35 minutes and increase railway capacity to 330,000 passengers per day.

Meanwhile, PNR Clark Phase 2, which will stretch from Malolos, Bulacan to Clark, Pampanga, has five civil works contract packages signed.   PNR Clark Phase 2 will have its groundbreaking in 2021.

Once completed, travel time between Bulacan and Pampanga will be slashed from the current 1 hour and 30 minutes to just 35 minutes. 

First airport express service

GM Magno emphasized that the PNR Clark Phase 2 features the country’s first airport express service. Travel time from Makati City to Clark, Pampanga will only be 55 minutes,  from more than 2 hours of travel by car.

The NSCR’s 54-kilometer second segment will be partially operational by the second quarter of 2023, with full operation targeted by third quarter 2024, to service 150,000 passengers per day.

 PNR will increase the number of its stations, routes, and trains. In 2017, PNR serviced only four routes, 24 stations, and seven train sets. However, under Tugade’s watch, PNR operates in seven routes and 34 stations, with 11 train sets at the end of 2020.

“Even with the floods, PNR trains will not stop running,” assured PNR chief Magno.

New trains for 60,000 people daily

PNR’s diesel hydraulic locomotives (DHLs) are part of the state railways’  re-fleeting strategy in 2018.  New train sets will serve commuters on the railway’s Metro line (Tutuban, Malabon up to Los Baños, Laguna). With the additional DHL trains, the PNR Metro  line targets to serve a total of 140,000 passengers daily, doubling its existing capacity of 48,000 to 60,000 per day. 

LRT-2 in Antipolo

Rail commuters from and to the east side of Metro Manila will enjoy a more convenient travel as the completion of the two new additional stations of the LRT-2 East Extension Project by April 27, this year.

The two are the Marikina Station (in front of the Sta. Lucia mall and Robinsons) and the Antipolo Station (in front of SM Masinag). They will have a soft opening on April 26, 2021, following by full operations the next day.

The two Marikina and Antipolo stations will serve commuters from Recto, Manila going to Masinag, Antipolo, and back. Travel time from Recto to Masinag will be 40 minutes.

The LRT-2 East Extension will serve an additional 80,000 passengers daily, boosting the entire rail line’s current daily ridership to 240,000.

MRT-3 Rehabilitation Project

Increased speed:

On Dec. 7, 2020, MRT-3 passengers started to enjoy faster travel with train operating speed to 60kph, cutting the average time between trains to only 3.5 to 4 minutes (20 trains at 60kph) from the previous 8 to 9.5 minutes (20 trains at 30kph).  Travel time from North Avenue station to Taft Avenue is shortened to only 50 minutes from the previous 1 hour and 15 minutes.

The MRT-3 was able to complete its rail replacement works in September 2020, several months ahead of its scheduled completion in February 2021.

The last time the MRT-3 was able to run at 60kph was in September 2013.

More MRT trains

Moreover, for the first time in history, the MRT-3 is now fielding a record-breaking 22 train sets on its mainline.

Under the MRT-3 Rehabilitation Project, Sumitomo-MHI-TESP will undertake the overhaul of all of MRT-3’s 72 Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs), replace all mainline tracks, rehabilitate power and overhead catenary systems, upgrade signaling, communications, and CCTV systems, and fix all of MRT-3’s escalators and elevators, among other system repairs and improvements. The project will last for 43 months, with rehabilitation works slated for completion within the first 26 months.

Once rehabilitation works are complete, the passenger capacity of the MRT-3 will increase from 300,000 to 600,000 passengers daily.

Metro Manila Subway (Quezon City-NAIA Terminal 3/FTI)

On Sept. 4, 2020, DOTr unveiled the first of the six Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) to be used for the construction of the country’s first underground railway system. The event gave the public a glimpse inside the production plant in Japan, where the TBMs are manufactured and assembled.

Six Earth Pressure Balance TBMs will be used to tunnel and connect the partial operability section of the Metro Manila Subway (Valenzuela-North Avenue), while 14 TBMs are set to be used for the remaining section of the railway project. The first two completed TBMs are scheduled to be delivered in the Philippines by the end of January 2021 and will be followed shortly in February 2021.

Subway to open partially this year

The  35-kilometer Metro Manila Subway will run from Quezon City to NAIA Terminal 3 in Pasay and FTI in Taguig. It will cross seven local governments and pass through three of Metro Manila’s business districts, reducing travel time from 1 hour and 10 minutes to just 45 minutes. Partial operability is set by the fourth quarter of 2021, with full operations to commence by 2025. The Metro Manila Subway is expected to accommodate 370,000 passengers daily.

MRT-7 (North Avenue, Quezon City-San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan)

The MRT-7 is a 23-kilometer rail line that will connect Quezon City and Bulacan. Currently, the project is more than halfway complete. Once operational, travel time between Quezon City and Bulacan will be reduced from 2-3 hours to just 35 minutes. It is expected to accommodate 300,000 to 800,000 passengers daily with partial operations set in the second quarter of 2021.

Common Station

For over nine years, the dream of connecting the country’s major rail lines was stalled. With disputes lingering on a location, the DOTr settled the issue and started the construction of the Common Station in Quezon City. The 13,700-square meter concourse area will interconnect four major rail lines: the LRT-1, MRT-3, MRT-7, and the Metro Manila Subway.

Now under 24/7 construction, the Common Station is expected to serve 478,000 passengers daily once operational by 2022.

LRT-1 Cavite Extension  (Baclaran-Bacoor, Cavite)

After nearly two decades and three administrations, the DOTr has started the actual construction of the 11.7-kilometer LRT-1 Cavite Extension, lengthening its services from Baclaran to Niog in Bacoor, Cavite. Once the project is complete, travel time between Baclaran and Bacoor is expected to drop from 1 hour and 10 minutes to just 25 minutes.

The LRT-1 Cavite Extension can serve 800,000 passengers daily. Partial operation is targeted by December 2021.

LRT-2 East Extension (Santolan-Masinag)

The existing LRT-2 will have two new additional stations in Marikina and Antipolo set to complete by December 2020. The new stations will greatly aid commuters from Recto, Manila going to Masinag, Antipolo and back, with a reduced travel time from three hours to just 40 minutes.  The LRT-2 East Extension can accommodate an additional 80,000 passengers daily, boosting the LRT-2’s current daily ridership of 240,000 passengers.

LRT-2 West Extension (Recto-Pier 4)

Further extending the LRT-2 line is the West Extension, a 3.02-kilometer rail line from Recto Station to Pier 4 in Manila. Once complete, travel time from Recto Station to Pier 4 will be reduced from 30 to 45 minutes to just eight minutes. The rail line is expected to accommodate an additional 32,000 passengers daily.

North-South Commuter Railway

The North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR) is a project of immense scale, connecting Central Luzon, Metro Manila, and CALABARZON under one network. Under the NSCR are the three railway segments: PNR Clark Phase 1, PNR Clark Phase 2, and PNR Calamba.

PNR Clark Phase 1

The first leg of the massive NSCR that will connect Manila to Bulacan is the PNR Clark Phase 1, a 38-kilometer rail line that is now under a 24/7 construction work schedule. Set for partial operations by the fourth quarter of 2021, travel time between Tutuban, Manila and Malolos, Bulacan will be reduced from one hour and 30 minutes to just 35 minutes. The rail line can serve approximately 300,000 passengers daily.

PNR Clark Phase 2 (Malolos-Clark)

The second segment is the PNR Clark Phase 2, a 53-kilometer rail line that will connect Malolos, Bulacan, to Clark International Airport (CRK). Once complete, travel time from Bulacan to CRK will run from 1 hour and 30 minutes to only 30 – 35 minutes.

PNR Calamba (Solis-Calamba)

Going south, NSCR’s third leg, the PNR Calamba is a 56-kilometer rail line that will run from Solis, Manila to Calamba, Laguna. Once complete, it will reduce travel time between Manila and Calamba from three hours to just one hour. The rail line is expected to accommodate 340,000 passengers daily.

PNR Bicol

(Manila-Sorsogon/Port of Batangas)

Construction is ongoing for the PNR Bicol, a 639-kilometer railway line that will connect Manila to Legazpi, Albay and Matnog, Sorsogon, with a spur line to Batangas City, Batangas.

Once complete, travel time between Manila and Legazpi City will be reduced from 13 hours to only six hours. Set for partial operations by December 2021, PNR Bicol is expected to accommodate 100,000 passengers daily.

Mindanao Railway Project Phase I (Tagum-Davao-Digos)

Pre-construction activities are currently ongoing for the first railway system in Mindanao, the Mindanao Railway Project. Phase 1 involves the Tagum-Davao-Digos segment, a 74-kilometer at-grade and 26-kilometer elevated (viaduct) commuter railway. Once fully operational, travel time between Tagum City to Digos City will be reduced from 3.5 hours to 1.3 hours. For its first phase, around 130,000 passengers can be accommodated daily.

Partial operation is targeted by the second quarter of 2022 for the Tagum-Davao line, while full operations for the first phase will be in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Subic-Clark Railway Project

Designed to move goods and commodities, the Subic-Clark Railway is a 71.13-kilometer cargo railway that will provide initial freight service between the Subic Bay Freeport Zone and the Clark Freeport and Special Economic Zone by 2022.

EDSA Greenways

The DOTr will also develop pedestrian facilities around key rail stations to encourage walking as an active transport through the EDSA Greenways Project. Greenway Nodes will be strategically located along with LRT-1 Balintawak Station, MRT-3 & LRT-2 Cubao Stations, MRT-3 Guadalupe Station, and MRT-3 & LRT-1 Taft Stations.

The project also involves the establishment of covered, elevated walkways leading to/from the rail stations and nearby land uses. Upon the completion of the four-station package, a total of 980,000 pedestrians/day is expected to use the footbridge network.

Its partial operation (Cubao and Taft) is targeted by June 2022.

Makati-BGC Greenways

The Makati-BGC Greenways Project is an elevated walkway with at grade bike lanes along EDSA Northbound and Quingua Street in Makati, connecting MRT-3 Buendia Station (Northbound) to BGC Bus Depot.

Once completed in 2022, the project will generate more walking and cycling trips, reduce traffic congestion, improve road safety and health for the public, help businesses thrive along the greenway corridors, increase tourism and recreation potential, and promote social inclusiveness.

Public Utility Vehicle

Modernization Program

Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program is a transformational large-scale initiative and flagship project of the Duterte administration supported by the proposed Comprehensive Tax Reform Program of the Department of Finance (DOF).

Under the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP), the government envisions a restructured, modern, well-managed, and environmentally sustainable transport sector wherein drivers and operators have stable, sufficient, and dignified livelihood while commuters get to their destinations quickly, safely, and comfortably.

Airport projects

Mactan-Cebu International Airport

Improvement of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) continues to include the construction of its second runway.  By 2022, MCIA will have the country’s first two parallel runways.  This project is expected to enhance MCIAA’s capacity to handle aircraft traffic movements and secure it against operational disruptions due to runway closures, repairs, and obstructions.

MCIA’s new terminal, which was completed in 2018, can now provide an additional capacity of 8.5 million passengers, bringing its total capacity to 13 million passengers per year.

Lauded for its world-class architecture and design, the MCIA’s new terminal is one of the winners during the 2019 International Architecture Awards for the Airports and Transportation Centers category and won the Completed Buildings: Transport category in the 2019 World Architecture Festival, competing with Singapore’s Jewel Changi Airport and Turkey’s Istanbul Airport.

NAIA Terminal 2 rehabilitation

The Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 2 rehabilitation project aims to improve its architectural, functional, and operational requirements to enhance the passenger movement within the terminal both for international and domestic flights.

NAIA Rehabilitation Project

The rehabilitation project of the country’s main international gateway seeks to broaden NAIA’s role as a key economic and tourism driver for Metro Manila and the whole country. It is expected to deliver capital infrastructure investment to improve the airport’s efficiency and increase its capacity to meet the growing passenger demand from the Philippines and the Asia Pacific Region; deliver a best-in-class passenger experience as a capital city airport, which is demanded by increasingly sophisticated travelers; and, create a positive first and last impression for Filipinos and visitors.

Bulacan International Airport

The Bulacan International Airport Project consists of four runways and a passenger terminal building capable of handling 100 million passengers annually, with a provision for expansion to 200 million passengers per year. It also involves the construction of an 8.4-kilometer tollway that will connect the gateway to the North Luzon Express (NLEX) at Marilao, Bulacan.

Once completed, the massive airport is expected to help decongest NAIA and serve the rapidly growing demand in aviation traffic and support the country’s economic growth.

Bicol International Airport

The much-anticipated Bicol International Airport (BIA) in Daraga, Albay is expected to be complete by December 2020 and shall be operational by the first quarter of 2021.

The new Passenger Terminal Building of the country’s “Most Scenic Gateway” can accommodate two million passengers annually and can seat 1,624 passengers at any time. Its runway length is 2,500 meters and can accommodate most wide-bodied jet aircraft.