Gov't OK's proposed Bicol airport, LRT 1 extension projects

By Zinnia Dela Peña, The Philippine Star

Posted at Mar 31 2014 08:31 AM | Updated as of Mar 31 2014 07:20 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Aquino administration has given the green light to the proposed P4.7-billion Bicol International Airport development project and the P1.4-billion extension of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) line 1.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has issued a Multi-Year Obligational Authority (MYOA) to both projects of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).

An MYOA is issued by the DBM to allow agencies to enter into multi-year contracts for locally funded or foreign-assisted projects.

The new airport, which will rise in Albay province, is targeted for completion in 2016. It aims to provide the Bicol region a safe, efficient and dependable transportation system that meets international standards and practices.

Of the P4.7 billion, the DBM already released P150 million for the airport development project this year via the 2014 General Appropriations Act (GAA). A total of P2.1 billion has already been spent from 2007 to 2012 for advance work such as earthwork, right-of-way acquisition, access road construction, and preliminary detailed engineering.

“The DOTC will finish the construction of the new Albay international airport by the end of President Aquino’s term. Improvements like this will help further economic development in the Bicol region,” Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said.

For the LRT project, the government has already released P629 million this year. Construction is expected to start by October and is scheduled to be completed next year.

The project will mainly connect the LRT 1 Roosevelt station with the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) North Avenue Station, among others. It will also provide a common station that will connect the LRT and MRT for easy passenger transfer. The already completed Balintawak and Roosevelt stations for LRT 1 are also part of the project.

“We understand the challenges that MRT commuters are now facing because of the improvements the government is making in Manila’s major road systems. However, these inconveniences should only be temporary, and the public can definitely expect better transport services as we work on a new interchange station linking the MRT and LRT stations,” Abad said.

MRT needs major upgrade

In spite of the development project on the train system, however, a rail technology maintenance contractor said the MRT needs a major system upgrade, including the total replacement of its obsolete signaling systems to prevent rail line disruptions and accidents.

Roehl Bacar, CEO of Comm Builders and Technology Philippines (CB&T), told The STAR that the MRT has several critical systems issues that could only be addressed by an upgrade not by maintenance.

He also said that the ingenuity and stubbornness of Filipino rail maintenance contractors should be given credit for their ability to keep the MRT running despite the poor condition of its systems and equipment.

CB&T was a member of the joint venture consortium PH Trams-CB&T that undertook the maintenance of the MRT from October 2012 to August 2013. Bacar led the conduct of a rail line systems assessment and audit from October 2012 to February 2013.

Based on results of the audit, Bacar said, the maintenance contractor found that there was a need to replace new parts or train motors and upgrade the air conditioning system, signaling system and even the rails.

“The signaling system is obsolete; it’s not being produced by Bombardier (the signaling systems supplier),” Bacar said, adding that signaling is one of the crucial operating systems of a rail line. – With Rainier Allan Ronda