Tunnel boring machines for PH’s first subway unveiled in Japan factory

Jacque Manabat, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 05 2020 01:04 AM | Updated as of Sep 05 2020 01:28 PM

MANILA - The Philippines’ first subway construction will continue despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, such as border controls.

The Department of Transportation said Friday they coordinated with other government agencies to ease the import of equipment and arrival of expert foreign nationals for the Metro Manila Subway project.

The department hosted a virtual tour of the tunnel boring machines in Japan, two out of 25 machines are expected to arrive in the Philippines by January and February 2021. 

“As a strategic partner of the Philippines, Japan will follow through until the end until we all see the light at the end of the tunnel. Even if it gets rough, our firm commitment to this country will not be shaken,” Ambassador Koji Haneda of Japan told the media during the virtual tour of the factory.

The tunnel boring machines will excavate tunnels using a circular cross-section mechanism through a variety of ground conditions, from hard rock to sand. They measure 6.99-meters in diameter and 95-meters in length. Each of these gigantic machines can lay down up to 12 meters of tunnel segments per day, and excavate up to 600 cubic meters of soil daily.

“The 34-kilometer Metro Manila Subway Project, with its 17 stations from Valenzuela to NAIA Terminal 3 and FTI, is expected to excavate approximately 7.7 million cubic meters of soil, or the equivalent of 3,100 Olympic size swimming pools,” said Transportation USec. TJ Batan, head of DOTr Railways.

The first batch of tunnel boring machines will be used to fast-track the construction of a part of the Metro Manila subway in Brgy. Ugong, Valenzuela to North Avenue in Quezon City.

Transportation Sec. Arthur Tugade admitted that the pandemic has an impact on the construction of the subway. But he said that contractors were instructed to finish the first phase of the project, Valenzuela to North Ave., by December 2021. 

Completion of the whole project is expected in 2025 instead of the initially announced 2026 deadline, according to Tugade.

The global outbreak prompted the DOTr to put up barracks for the workers at the construction site. Strict health and safety protocols are also in place.

“Some of the challenges of the pandemic - the social distancing requirements. One way na in-address natin yan is yung requirement natin na magdadgag ng tao and expand the barracks para yung in-house na construction workers ng ating contractors can avoid contact nila sa labas,” Batan said.

The DOTr estimates that the project will generate around 9,000 jobs with indirect employment of 40,000 up to 50,000 workers.