ABS-CBN News, 20 September 2013

By Cathy Rose A. Garcia


MANILA, Philippines – Did you know that Metro Manila could have had its own subway system? But the government then opted to build the Light Rail Transit (LRT) instead of the subway.

Urban planner and architect Felino “Jun” Palafox said the subway was proposed by then Public Works and Transportation Secretary David Consunji and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in the late 1970s.

Palafox, who was team leader and senior planner for the World Bank-funded Metroplan in 1977, said the government decided that the LRT was the most feasible transport system for the metropolis at that time.

“It came out the most feasible at that time was the LRT,” he said in an interview on Mornings@ANC.

While the subway project was thumbed down in the 1970s, Palafox said it is still worth looking into the project now.

“It’s very good because the subway carries 40,000 passengers per track per hour. Siguro sa EDSA, we have 2,000 persons per lane per hour… I agree with Secretary Abaya that it’s worth studying again but they should see all the factors, the private sectors that would be involved,” he said.

Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya on Tuesday said the government is preparing to conduct a study on the feasibility of a subway system along EDSA.

However, netizens were skeptical of the proposal.

But before the subway is considered again, Palafox said the government should look at the LRT first. “But the LRT I think it’s (now) only 30% complete and that was put forward in 1977. The LRT rail tracks are overprovided. Under-provided are the rolling stock, number of trains. Kung tapusin ang buong network then maybe we can consider the subway,” he said.

There are also concerns that building a subway along the main highway EDSA would cause even more traffic.

“If you do the subway, how many lanes will be closed? We should also look at the billions of man hours lost. It’s all included in the plan,” Palafox said.

“After construction, it would be good for us. But during construction, I don’t know. Because the impact of the construction, if they have the equipment, maybe they can just tunnel underneath EDSA without disturbing the surroundings but if they disturb surroundings, we will have to open up the roads in the villages and military camps.”

While some expressed fear that any proposed subway would become flooded in Metro Manila, Palafox said the planners should integrate flood control and drainage systems in the project.

Penalize private cars

If a subway is indeed built, Palafox said the government should ensure the fares would be affordable to the public.

He also said the government can penalize the use of private cars to encourage more commuters to use the subway.

“They should penalize the use of a car. Parang sa Manhattan, Mayor Bloomberg widened the sidewalks so people could walk more. He removed some traffic lanes for bicycle lanes and penalized the car. It’s $59 for 3 hours parking. You must penalize the use of a car so you can have more ridership. Do we have the political decision to do that?,” Palafox, founder of Palafox Associates, said.

However, the proposed subway is not expected to be started anytime soon. Abaya even admitted the project may not even take off under President Aquino’s term, which ends in 2016.

“Maybe we can target the soonest, 2021, when the Philippines will be 500 years old…. Airports and subways, from planning to designing, from commitment to implementation. It takes 10 years,” Palafox said.