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Ambitious tunnel system seeks to link PH islands

P170-B proposal challenges aging, expensive transport corridors

A Filipino consortium is proposing a nationwide “open surface tunnel system” aimed at building an efficient means of transport for people and cargo, and at a fraction of the cost of railway systems.

Francis Yuseco, an inventor and head of Philtrak Inc., one of the consortium members, said Monday the project, dubbed The Philippines Integrated Trackway System, called for the construction of an integrated network of open tunnels across Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao to be used for the mass transportation of people and agricultural products.

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He said the project could cost about P170 billion, or about 2 percent of the budget typically allotted for railway systems with a similar scale and “without the billions [of pesos] of subsidies shouldered by taxpayers.”

The project also boasted of carrying out the tall order of cutting out the “middle man” in the supply chain and curbing smuggling, thus increasing profits of food producers while lowering the cost of goods for consumers, according to briefing materials provided.

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Yuseco said this would be the first public private partnership project offered to the incoming administration of President-elect Rodrigo R. Duterte.

The open surface tunnels would be completely walled in, with regular opening slots to allow the entry and exit of “specifically designed” passenger vehicles, cargo freights and farmer and fishermen-owned refrigerated and non-refrigerated vans.

“The end result of the use of these open tunnels by our farmers and fishermen is their absolute freedom from middle men,” Philtrak said in its briefing materials.

It said farmers and fisherfolks would thus have the means to transport their own goods and sell these at market stalls, which they could own.

“Accordingly, their income will exponentially increase while food prices for the entire country will dramatically decrease,” Philtrak said.

Specific details on where the project would be built were not included in briefing materials. A feasibility study was also not included.

Philtrak said the tunnel system would also be high-tech.  The entry and exit of all vans and vehicles would be “pre-programmed with local stations or base of the farmers and fishermen’s cooperative.” There would also be a “central command post” with software monitoring and data keeping.

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Philtrak is the same company proposing to solve Metro Manila’s traffic woes in the next two to three years via the construction of an elevated, dedicated bus system running along Edsa. The system, similar to a bus rapid transit system, was envisioned to decongest the capital district’s busy roads.

Members  of the consortium are Philtrak, Del Monte Motor Works Corp., Del Monte Land Transport Inc., Micrologics Systems Inc. and Versatech Consultants and Management Corp., Land Excel Corp.

According to Philtrak, the Philippines Integrated Trackway System would also spur development outside Metro Manila.

One of the features of the project would be the creation of self-autonomous townships along the adjacent and open tunnels.

Philtrak said the townships would be “environmentally friendly” where houses would use solar panels and rain catchment technology.

“The planned townships will be the future havens of families who wish to reverse migrate back to their respective provinces once they learn about the exponential increase in farmer’s income,” it added.

The project was part of what the group described as a Marshall-like plan to augment the backlog in necessary infrastructure. This was in reference to the United States’ massive post-World War II economic aid for Western Europe in 1948 drawn up by then Secretary of State George Marshall.

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