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The golden age of infrastructure

by Senator Manny Villar

Infrastructure-driven development has been the strategy that propelled many countries like the United States, France, Singapore, and China, to name a few, into sustained growth and development.

The philosophy of infrastructure development rests on the idea that economic growth can be spurred by building infrastructure like ports, railways, airports, even Internet and communications facilities. In other words, connecting people together is good for business which, in turn, is good for the nation’s progress.

This is the reason I welcome the recent announcement of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) that its board has approved a set of “mega” infrastructure development designed not only to alleviate urban congestion but also help in sustaining our amazing economic growth which is already the best-performing in the region.

The NEDA board and later on, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, approved five flagship infrastructure projects, including the much anticipated Metro Manila Subway Project (MMSP) which will be financed through Official Development Assistance (ODA) from Japan to the tune of R335.6 billion and is set to commence early in 2018.

Secretary Ernesto Pernia said the first phase of the MMSP will run from Mindanao Avenue in Quezon City to Food Terminal, Inc. (FTI) in Taguig and terminate at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Parañaque City.

I think anyone who has endured the hellish traffic conditions in Metro Manila will applaud this initiative. Traffic engineers have always reminded us that the cause of traffic is the increasing number of cars and the fact that roads are not expanding. We no longer have any space above to build flyovers.

That is why the subway is very important. This will be the first subway in the Philippines and the longest mass railway transit system.

The government has already allayed fears expressed by some sectors of the possible negative, even catastrophic impact of flooding to the proposed subway. If it is done according to international standards, there is no cause to fear.

I am sure that many of our countrymen who have travelled abroad appreciate the importance of a subway in an urban area with a shortage of space.

I, myself, have taken rides in the trains and subways of Singapore, Japan, and Hong Kong – our neighbors. And I am always amazed at the efficiency of their mass transit system. Even during rush hour, when millions of people descend to their subway stations, they somehow manage to make things work.

Now it is finally coming to the Philippines. Bravo!

The other projects approved by the NEDA board included the “Improving Growth Corridors in Mindanao.”

Road Sector Project of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the Binondo-Intramuros and Estrella-Pantaleon Bridges Construction Project of the DPWH worth a total of P5.97 billion, the Lower Agno River Irrigation System Improvement Project of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), and the Infrastructure Preparation and Innovation Facility of the Department of Finance (DoF).

The Mindanao project is also very significant because the upgrading of seven roads and the widening of a 40-kilometer road segment is critical in the government’s effort to spur economic growth in Mindanao.

As the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Libration Front (MILF) advances, we need to complement that with projects that will help Mindanao strengthen its economic performance.

Peace and progress, especially in that region, need to go hand in hand. In addition, I understand that three Tawi-Tawi bridges under the project were likewise conditionally approved with the entire package worth P21.19 billion to be financed through a loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

These recent NEDA board approvals bring the total infrastructure projects under the Duterte administration to 35 with a staggering total cost of R1.2 trillion. But I believe this is money well spent.

Government is essentially laying the groundwork to the future of the country where we have efficient mass transport systems and modern roads to accommodate our burgeoning economy.

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(For comment /feedbackemail to: mbv.secretariat@gmail or visit www.mannyvillar.com.ph.)

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