DoTr marks turnaround in Digong’s 2nd year

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“The DoTr undertook a facelift of four airports in the first half of 2018.”

In the past, the country’s premier gateway Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) has gained disrepute as among the world’s worst airports, with the “tanim bala” extortion scheme, frequent flight delays, congestion and substandard facilities to name a few.

But in just a span of two years, the Department of Transportation under Secretary Arturo Tugade has managed to turn the situation around.

Just recently, an international survey named NAIA as one of the world’s most improved airport in 2018. The “tanim-bala” nightmare of air passengers is history.

It was just among the biggest challenges the DoTr under the Duterte administration has surmounted with strict implementation of the rules, appropriate policies and sheer political will.

Before the Duterte administration took over, on-time flight performance stood at a measly 48 percent but by 2017 it has improved to 71 percent, meaning a significant reduction in flight delays. There were better toilets and more seats for passengers. In addition, passengers can now enjoy free and reliable Wi-Fi connections.

Among others, the DoTr had to prioritize commercial flights over general aviation to address the congestion at the runway. Airlines were likewise encouraged to launch more flights at the Clark International Airport, which was then underutilized, with just seven flights per week and a measly 800,000 passenger traffic annually.

Improved airport services

Now, over 200 flights take off from Clark every week leading to a record high of 1.5 million passenger traffic for the airport by the end of 2017.

The DoTr also strove to make more of the country’s airports capable of night time operations. From a mere 15 night-rated airports in mid-16 the present number has increased to 20 and two more are in the process of being night-rated for this year. This means domestic flights do not have to be crammed at day time alone.

To improve the flight safety, DoTr inaugurated last January 16, 2018 the satellite-based Communication Navigation Surveillance/Air Traffic Management System with a control center and 10 additional radars in addition to the existing three radar units.

Likewise, the DoTR has inaugurated last year three airport projects. These include the New Terminal at Puerto Princesa Airport in Palawan, designed to handle up to 19 million passengers annually; the new terminal building of the Mactan-Cebu International Aiport, which was completed a year ahead of schedule and the Lalo Airport, which can accommodate bigger aircraft with its 2.1-kilometer runway.

In addition, the DoTr undertook a facelift of four airports in the first half of 2018, improving passenger terminals and runways of the Tuguegarao Airport, Virac Airport in Catanduanes, Tacloban and Maasin Airports in Visayas, and San Vicente Airport in Palawan.

This year, the country’s first “green” airport is expected to open in Panglao, Bohol province. In December last year, the DoTr held the groundbreaking for the new passenger terminal of Clark Airport, designed for up to 8 million of passenger traffic annually. In addition, DoTr proceeded with the construction of the Bicol airport that has suffered delays of over seven years. It is now 70 percent complete.

MRT-3 headache reduced

If air transport was a problem for the DoTr, the MRT-3 woes constituted an even bigger headache. Several of its trains were beyond repair, facilities were in bad condition and unloading incidents occur almost daily.

In November 2017, DoTr put together a maintenance transition team that eventually managed to field from 15 to 18 running trains daily and drastically cut down unloading incidents.

As the maintenance transition team struggles to uncover MRT-3’s problems, the DoTr deployed point-to-point (P2P) buses at the North Avenue and Quezon Avenue stations during rush hour in the morning and afternoon to provide an option to MRT-3 passengers who fail to ride on the train.

However, there are P2P buses serving other routes as an alternative transport for vehicle owners, reducing the amount of vehicle on the road and helping lessen traffic jams in the main thoroughfares of Metro Manila. Currently, there are 23 P2P bus stations in areas such as Alabang, Antipolo, Clark, NAIA, Glorietta and Greenbelt malls in Makati and Vista Mall in Bacoor, Cavite among others.

Eventually, the work of the maintenance transition team for MRT-3 paid off. Just recently, MRT-3 posted a 28-day streak without any unloading incident — the longest such streak for the past seven years. MRT-3 operations are expected to get better with the arrival in July of a highly qualified maintenance provider through an agreement with the Japanese government.

Rail system expanded

Likewise, the DoTr has set its sights to increase the length of the operational rail lines from 77 kilometers to around 2,000 kilometers by 2022. For this purpose, reconstruction of the PNR-Clark line started in January 2017. With 17 stations, this 107-kilometer rail line will connect Tutuban to Clark and is expected to be completed by 2022.

There is also the PNR-Bicol line, consisting of 653 kilometers running from Manila-Batangas-Laguna, up to Matnog in Sorsogon. Phase 1 of the line from Manila to Los Baños in Laguna is scheduled for construction in 2019.

The ambitious Metro Manila Subway — the country’s first — is set for ground breaking on the fourth quarter of 2018 and partial operation is eyed by 2022. Connecting Mindanao Avenue in Quezon City and NAIA in Pasay City, the subway is targeted to be fully operational by 2025.

Moreover, DoTr is pursuing the implementation of Phase 1 of the Mindanao Railway System, the first ever in Mindanao, which will connect Tagum, Davao and Digos. It is expected to be operational by 2021.

Construction of MRT7 is already at 22.96 percent as of February this year. It will connect Quezon City to San Jose Del Monte in Bulacan and is expected for completion by 2020.
By the third quarter of 2018 construction of the LRT1 Cavite Extension, which will link Baclaran to Bacoor in Cavite, is expected to commence. This line will cut travel time of commuters from over two hours to a mere 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, the construction of the common station that will connect MRT-3, MRT-7, LRT-1 and the Metro Manila Subway is ongoing and expected to be completed by next year.

Road sector improved

In less than six months of the Duterte administration in office, the Land Transportation Office (LTO) has addressed the lack of driver’s license cards and began issuing cards valid for five years, with improved security features. Likewise, the LTO has launched online applications to serve more clients.

Early this year, the LTO also inaugurated its own plate-making facility to address the years of complaints of car owners lack of vehicle plates. Since July 5, LTO began releasing vehicle license plates by batches nationwide.

DoTr is also pushing for jeepney modernization to provide commuters with a safe, secure and environment-friendly rides.

And to address massive traffic jams in the metropolis, intermodal terminals are now being built for passengers entering Metro Manila, including the Parañaque ITX, the Taguig ITX and the North ITX in Bocaue, Bulacan. Accreditations were also given to the Eastern Transport Terminal in Marikina and the Sta. Rosa Transport Terminal in Laguna.