Imagining infrastructure beyond ‘Build, Build, Build’
(First of two parts)
One of the critical programs the incoming administration will have to weigh in is infrastructure. It will need to decide on which projects to continue or begin in the next six years.
Infrastructure projects, after all, are deemed crucial to the country’s economic development. As seen in the incumbent administration’s “Build, Build, Build” campaign, many of these projects have helped revitalize our transportation and utility needs.
If you were to be asked, are there any infrastructure projects you wish to be built in the next six years? The following are some of the items on the wish list of many planners. It is with hope that the incoming administration will consider these ideas as they might help boost productivity and stimulate our economy towards a more sustainable and inclusive growth.
More social infrastructure
Sometimes, it’s the little things that make the biggest differences.
As a country where there are more commuters than car owners, the Philippines can surely benefit from more people-oriented infrastructure. Many first world countries are actually placing focus on infrastructure that can directly serve people’s needs, and the Philippines would surely be wise to follow suit.
Our recent experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need to focus on the commuters. Since the pandemic, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) reported that there were at least 95,000 new people who took up cycling as their means to work. This calls for more bike lanes, bicycle parking areas and paved roads.
In order to improve our chances in the new normal, it would also help if the new administration would focus on health facilities, socialized housing and other facilities that provide community support. Moreover, cities and neighborhoods would surely benefit from more parks and open spaces for families to enjoy nature and socialize safely in the postpandemic period.
Completion of the Bicol PNR Line
It was only early this year that there had been some developments in the talks about the Philippine National Railways (PNR) Bicol project, also known as the Bicol South Long Haul. While railways were already in operation in the Bicol Region as early as 1919, services slowed down when people began to prefer traveling by bus and car. The “Bicol Express” PNR Line officially ran until 2006, when it was affected by several typhoons. While it was reopened a few years later, it never regained its full glory again.
In 2017, the Duterte administration began to revive the idea of reconstructing the railway to Bicol. While past governments made some initiatives toward this project, there is now a definite schedule lined up for it. Set to begin this year is the construction for the first phase, which covers the railway from Calamba, Laguna, to Daraga, Albay.
For this project to be successful, the incoming administration would have to oversee and ensure the completion of this huge venture. Even with the first phase completed, further construction would be required in the future. And while the project would require heavy funding, it would significantly cut travel time to the southern part of Luzon, currently at about 14 to 18 hours, to only six hours via commuter trains and four and a half hours via express trains. This shortened route would surely propel trading and travel in Luzon once realized.
Planning of a Luzon- Visayas-Mindanao Railway
While seemingly ambitious, the Philippines would surely benefit from a connection linking the three main islands of the country in the foreseeable future. The Duterte administration envisioned this linkage through the construction of eight bridges nationwide, permitting vehicular travel from Luzon to Mindanao.
Many citizens, however, dream of something bigger: an interconnected railway system permitting ordinary commuters to travel across the country via land.
A railway connecting the three main islands of our nation would help propel our country’s economy, tourism and transportation. While it is the ultimate dream to interconnect our islands, work still has to be done most especially in Mindanao and Visayas. The two have yet to see a railway system built.
Thankfully, the Mindanao railway appears to be on its way to becoming a reality, as its construction is set to begin in the second quarter of this year. Let us hope that this project will further inspire our future leaders to develop mass transportation outside Luzon. In time, a nationwide railway may become possible if development continues beyond Metro Manila.
More dreams ahead
With the “Build, Build, Build” program, the incumbent administration has set in motion our country’s imagination for better infrastructure. Regardless of political stances, many Filipinos hope that our country will progress greatly as new leaders take the reign. Let us all pray that our dreams will be realized in the next administration.
(To be continued)
Sources: https://www.cnnphilippines.com, https://dotr.gov.ph, https://www.pna.gov.ph, https://mmda.gov.ph, Architects Alexander Fria, Catherine Hermo and Stephen Sy