By DOTr Sec. Art Tugade

Tunneling works for the Metro Manila Subway Project are set to commence after President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Transportation Secretary Art Tugade on Sunday, Independence Day, 12 June 2022, led the lowering and positioning of the first Tunnel Boring Machine at the subway’s depot in Valenzuela City for the country’s first-ever underground railway system.

Secretary Tugade said that the historic event is concrete proof that the project, which has been a dream for nearly 50 years, is now becoming a reality.

“Ngayong ni-lower na natin ‘yung tunnel boring machine, ang ibig sabihin ‘yung paghukay para sa Metro Manila Subway through tunnel boring machine ay mag-uumpisa na,” Secretary Tugade said during the historic event, coinciding with the Independence Day rites.

The Metro Manila Subway Project will have a total of 25 TBMs, which will dig underground tunnels that will connect the subway’s 17 stations from Valenzuela City to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3.

Each TBM can excavate up to 600 cubic meters of soil and create up to 12 meters of tunnels per day using its massive rotating cutting wheels that can easily break up hard soil and rocks.

With its sheer size and power, the MMSP’s TBMs are designed to make the process of tunneling faster, while significantly reducing above ground disruption during construction.

Secretary Tugade also pointed out that should the schedule set for the construction of the Metro Manila Subway Project be strictly followed, the partial operability of the country’s first-ever subway is expected to start in 2025, with its full operation slated in 2027.

“Itong proyektong ito ay tinatawag na flagship, itong proyektong ito ay tinatawag na ‘Project of the Century’. Itong proyektong ito ay pinapakita sa sambayanan na totoo, tunay, nauumpisahan at tatapusin. Ito ‘yung regalo ng administrasyong Duterte sa sambayanan, sa mga Pilipino at sa bayan, on the occasion of the Philippine Independence Day today,” Secretary Tugade stressed.

Secretary Tugade cited crucial reasons why the subway project will continue beyond the end of President Duterte’s administration. These include the project’s financing from the Government of Japan through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the contracts awarded, and the resolution of the project’s right-of-way (ROW) issues.

“Una, ‘yong pondo sa proyektong ito, ‘yung pondong kailangan ay nandiyan na. Nandiyan po ‘yung fund arrangement at loan support ng government of Japan sa tulong ng JICA,” Secretary Tugade said.

“Pangalawang kadahilanan, ‘yung mga kontrata na kaakibat para mabuo itong MMSP kung hindi tapos ay inuumpisahan na. Kung hindi tapos at inuumpisahan na, kinokontrata na. Ang ibig sabihin naka-kasa na ‘ho ‘yan kaya dapat magpasalamat tayo sa mga kontraktor at operator. Ang ikatlong kadahilanan at ipinakita ito sa video, ‘yung tinatawag na right-of-way na kung saan madaming proyekto noong nakaraang administrasyon ay na-delay at nabinbin dahil sa right-of-way. Dito sa proyektong ito, mahigit 90% tapos na ang right-of- way,” he added.

President Duterte also unveiled the state-of-the-art dynamic full size train simulator for the Philippine Railways Institute (PRI), which is likewise being constructed in Valenzuela.

The President said the lowering and positioning of the TBM is another milestone under the administration’s Build, Build, Build Program that gives Filipinos “a sense of pride and excitement.”

“I congratulate the Department of Transportation and of course, Secretary Tugade, and his partners in achieving significant progress in the Metro Manila Subway Project,” he said.

One of the largest infrastructure flagship projects under President Duterte’s Build, Build, Build Program, the Metro Manila Subway is a 33-kilometer underground rail line stretching from Valenzuela City to NAIA Terminal 3 in Pasay City.

The rail line is designed to reduce travel time between Quezon City and NAIA from the present one hour and 10 minutes to just 35 minutes.

In its first year of full operations, the underground railway system is expected to accommodate up to 370,000 passengers per day, with a capacity of up to 1 million passengers per day over the next decades.