Business Columns

The Outsider (Melandrew T. Velasco): Dreaming of a merrier Christmas with MRT 7 and new int’l airport

As the year is about to end, I am hopeful like other Filipinos that our country will move up to become an upper middle-income country earlier than the 2025 forecast.

Economists have painted a rosy growth prospect for the country and according to the World Bank, the Philippines has been one of the most dynamic economies in the East Asia and Pacific region.

Infrastructure plays an important role in a country’s economic development and to further spur development, there is a need to invest more in infrastructure. 

Big-ticket infra projects were undertaken by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr’s predecessor under the Build, Build, Build Program.  Some infrastructure projects were completed under the BBB Program, such as the final section of the Tarlac–Pangasinan–La Union Expressway (TPLEX), Plaridel By-Pass Road Phase II, North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) Harbor Link Segment 10 and C3-R10 Section, Skyway Stage 3, and Alabang-Sucat Skyway Extension, among others. There are projects which are still ongoing, now under the Build Better More Program of President Marcos Jr.

Among these ongoing projects are transport infrastructures:  the New Manila International Airport in Bulacan and the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 7, both being undertaken by San Miguel Corporation subsidiaries. These projects will enhance connectivity and mobility, complementing each other. 

At the time the project was conceptualized, it would carry 300,000 during the first year of operation and “shall reach the maximum projection of 850,000 passengers per day on the 12th year.”

Last month, a team composed of personnel from MRT-7 and partners Hyundai Rotem,  Korail and Rhodium 688 conducted test runs of its trains at MRT-7’s line along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City.

SMC President and Chief Executive Officer Ramon S. Ang (RSA) led the test runs and witnessed the use of technology to provide better travel experience. “The hard work of everyone involved is turning our collective dream of fast, efficient transport into reality. The prospect of traveling from Quezon City to Bulacan in just 35 minutes is not only a time-saver, but also a life-changer, offering more opportunities for personal and family time,” RSA said.

The MRT 7 project involves the implementation of an integrated transportation system. Undertaken by the proponent are the financing, design, construction, operation and maintenance of the project. 

It has three components: the metro rail transit system, highway, and intermodal transportation terminal.

The metro rail transit system stretches 22.6 km. with 14 stations from North Avenue Station to San Jose del Monte. The other stations are in Quezon Memorial Circle, University Avenue, Tandang Sora, Don Antonio, Batasan, Manggahan, Doña Carmen, Regalado, Mindanao Ave. Quirino, Sacred Heart, and Tala. It also includes the rolling stocks with 108 cars now completed, and a depot.  

The highway component is a 6-lane, 22 km highway that will connect the Intermodal Transportation Terminal in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan to Bocaue/Balagtas Interchange North Luzon Expressway. It will traverse the municipalities of San Jose del Monte, Sta. Maria, Pandi, Bocaue, and Balagtas.

Meanwhile, the Intermodal Transport Terminal will be located adjacent to the Depot. At any given time, it will be able to accommodate 60 buses. It will be fitted with complete facilities like passenger waiting areas and lounge, ticket booths, among others.

The MRT-7 project is a public-private partnership under the Build-Gradual Transfer-Operate and Maintain scheme. According to the Department of Transportation (DOTr)  as of October, the MRT-7 project is 63.28 percent complete. It is expected to be fully operational by 2025. 

It will be recalled that in April this year, officials from the Department of Transportation, Quezon City government, and San Miguel Corporation led groundbreaking for the pre-construction works of the elevated turnback guideway of MRT-7 at West Avenue, Quezon City.

The turnback guideway will allow MRT-7 trains to change directions upon reaching the North Triangle Common Station in North Avenue. The common station which is still under construction will be used by LRT Line 1, MRT Line 3 and MRT-7.

According to RSA, the construction of MRT-7’s turnback guideway at West Avenue presented an opportunity to help advance Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte’s push for more and better active transport infrastructure in the city. 

“Once completed, the new configuration of the road will feature wider pedestrian walkways, and bike lanes that will benefit more people,” he added.

The MRT-7 project had an estimated project cost of Php 77 billion during the approval of the project. On June 22, 2022, DOTr submitted the project for approval of its proposed variation, with a new project cost amounting to Php 125.04 billion.

The Concession Agreement became effective on February 19, 2016 and construction of the project began in August of the same year. It has a 25-year concession period.

Like other infrastructure projects, the MRT-7 project and the New Manila International Airport are real game-changer projects and investments in the Filipino future. As we celebrate Christmas 2023, we can always look forward to a better and merrier Christmas in the years to come.