Metro Manila subway to partially operate by yearend - DOTr

Jacque Manabat, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 05 2021 06:27 PM | Updated as of Feb 08 2021 08:58 AM

Metro Manila subway to partially operate by yearend - DOTr 1
The cutter head is the largest part of the tunnel boring machine, weighing 74 tons or as heavy as two Airbus A320 airplanes. Photo from the DOTr

MANILA — The Philippines is inching closer towards having its first subway system. 

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) unveiled on Friday morning a part of a tunnel boring machine, the head cutter that is crucial to the construction of the Metro Manila subway, which is planned to begin partial operations by the end of the year.

The P350-billion project is eyed to be completed in 2025. Some 85 percent of the cost was loaned from Japan, expected to be paid in up to 40 years, with a 12-year grace period and 0.1 percent interest. 

But the agency said the actual construction would begin in the third quarter this year, with the plan to partially operate a subway station in East Valenzuela by yearend. 

“Partial operability [by December] this year. Worst case scenario [is by] January o February next year… Ma-e-enjoy at masasakyan ang ating subway hindi pa tayo nagbabayad ng loans,” Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said.

(We can enjoy using the subway even if we haven't paid our loans.)

Tugade added that building the subway would be safe, citing the Japanese technology to be employed.

“Ang mga engineers natin, consultant at skills pati na mga contractor ay [na-involve] sa... subway sa Japan… kung saan 'yung bagyo at lindol ay marami kesa sa atin. Ibig sabihin kung bibitbitin 'yung kanilang talent at skills at experience puwede natin sabihin kagaya ng Japan hindi magkakaproblema 'yung baha,” he said.

(Our engineers and consultant were among those who were involved in the construction of the subway in Japan, where typhoons and earthquakes happen most often. This means that we have their talent, skills, and experience that will be used for this construction, to avoid scenarios such as flooding.)

Cutter head arrival for the tunnel construction

The cutter head is the largest part of the tunnel boring machine, weighing 74 tons or as heavy as two Airbus A320 airplanes. Its main purpose is to break, cut and grind rocks and soil, with the power of 300 jackhammers by rotating its 36-piece disc cutter.


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This giant is the first of 25 tunnel boring machines that will be used to dig the tunnels and passageways from Valenzuela through Quezon City, Pasig, Taguig and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. 

The machine can dig up to 6 to 12 meters a day, according to the DOTr. 

In a statement, the agency said the arrival of the cutter head would signal the “continuous arrival” of other equipment and materials needed for the tunnel’s construction, noting that the remaining parts of the said machine could arrive in the country in the coming days. 

“[The equipment and remaining parts] will be transported at the site for assembly. This will be followed by the conduct of a mandatory operational test prior to the lowering and main drive underground,” said the DOTr. 

The proposal to create the first-ever subway line in the capital region dates back to September 1973, based on a study by the Japan Overseas Technical Cooperation Agency, a predecessor of JICA, the agency noted. 

The subway was then proposed in 2000 and 2014. The loan agreement was signed between President Rodrigo Duterte and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2017.

The Metro Manila Subway Project is the first underground railway system project in the Philippines, which aims to provide mass transportation in the National Capital Region. from Valenzuela City to Bicutan, Parañaque, and the NAIA Terminal 3 in Pasay. 

Editor’s note: This article previously mentioned the cost of the Metro Manila Subway as $350 billion when it should have been P350 billion. We regret the error.