The list of infrastructure projects under the government's Build, Build, Build program can be classified into three - the good, the strange, and the wildcard. This is as perceived by Engr. Rene S. Santiago, Chief Executive Officer of Bellwether Advisory Inc., one of the main presenters during the Infrastructure Summit Philippines 2017 held yesterday at the New World Hotel Makati.
Focusing on sectoral issues and challenges of infrastructure implementation, Santiago dig into the http://www.build.org.ph/, the official website of the government's key infrastructure projects.
The 8-kilometer NLEX-SLEX Connector Road, a joint project of the DPWH and the North Luzon Expressway Corporation, topped the projects that Santiago approves. This Php 23.2 billion worth of all elevated 2×2 highway is expected to ease traffic in Metro Manila by providing an alternative route to C-5 Road, Efipanio delos Santos Avenue (EDSA), and other major thoroughfares.
The next project that got the thumbs up of the construction expert, is the NAIA Expressway Phase II.This 4-lane, 7.75 km elevated expressway and 2.22 km at-grade feeder road is a solicited, Built-to-Operate (BOT) PPP project of the DPWH. Once completed, it will provide access to NAIA Terminals I, II and III, and link the Skyway and the Manila-Cavite Toll Expressway.
The 1.15-kilometer Sta. Monica Bridge will be constructed across the Pasig River to connect Lawton Avenue in Makati City to Sta. Monica, Fairlane, and Brixton in Pasig City and Bonifacio Global City.
The long-delayed Php10.6 billion Cebu Bus-Rapid-Transit (BRT) project of the Department of Transportation (DOTr), to be funded by the World Bank and is expected to be operational in 2019, is seen as strange by Santiago.
"I announced in Cebu in 2014 that it (Cebu BRT) is a project bound to fail," expressed Santiago. Last year, a Canadian professor with the same sentiments as Santiago said that BRT is simply not viable in Cebu because of the city's narrow roads.
While Santiago agrees with the DOTr that the best site to test a BRT system is in Quezon Avenue in Mega Manila, the transportation expert is irresolute that the project will not be completed in time.
"Quezon Avenue has enough space to accommodate a BRT system, but given the poor experience of DOTr in Cebu BRT, I do not know whether they can deliver the Quezon BRT by December 2022," Santiago said. "Especially when they also approved the same Quezon Boulevard (East-West Rail). You do not reproduce the same mass transit project on the same corridor. "
The Mindanao Railway System (MRS) Phase I project, a 102 kilometer, single track railway which runs from Tagum City Davao del Norte to Digus City Davao del Sur is included in the wildcard list of Santiago. However, its feasibility study which was done in a short-span of five months was deemed questionable.
"I've never done feasibility study in Vietnam, Myanmar and anywhere else, especially for a complex project like a railway in five months," said Santiago.
Next in the wildcard list are the Php 19.81 billion Davao City By-Pass Road project, and the Subic-Clark Railway Project.
"Building infrastructure is a marathon race, make haste.. slowly."
Engr. Rene Santiago
* Infrastructure Summit Philippines 2017 was organized by the Philippine Constructors Association (PCA) Inc., in partnership with the International Federation of ASEAN and Western Pacific Contractors' Association (IFAWPCA). The event was managed by Global Link MP Events International Inc.