‘Build, Build, Build’ continues amid pandemic — Gov’t

Even in the midst of a pandemic, construction of transport infrastructures under the government’s massive “Build, Build, Build” program continues, with several high-ticket projects set to be operational this year, Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade said.

Architect’s design of new Calbayog Airport’s new passenger terminal building in Tacloban City (Source: DOTr)

“Habang tayo’y nakiki-baka at nilalabanan ang pandemya, ang Build, Build, Build ho ay tuloy-tuloy. Hindi ho ito nawala (While we’re fighting the pandemic, ‘Build, Build, Build’ continues. This did not disappear),” Tugade said during President Rodrigo Duterte’s Talk to the People on Thursday.

During the meeting with the President, Tugade presented several ongoing and completed transport infrastructure projects, such as the construction of Calbayog Airport’s new passenger terminal building, increasing passenger capacity from 176 to 450.

“Handa na nating inaugurate sa April 22. Napakaganda ho, magugulat ho kayo talagang puwedeng ipagmalaki (This is ready to be inaugurated on April 22. It’s very beautiful, you’ll be surprised, it will make you proud),” Tugade said.

He noted that the Clark International Airport Terminal is set to be completed and operational by June or July this year, while the Bicol International Airport will be completed by June or July and will be operational before the end of 2021.

“Sa airport ho, nakatapos na tayo ng mahigit 120 airport projects from new airports to runway to the terminal to asphalt overlay to the extension of runways, taxiways and apron, lahat po ‘yan (For airports, we have completed over 120 airport projects—from new airports to runways to terminals to asphalt overlay to the extension of runways, taxiways, and apron—all of that),” Tugade said.

He also presented the construction of a new port in the Port of Tagbilaran that was completed and inaugurated on Wednesday.

“Iyong puerto winasak noong 2013 ng earthquake—makikita niyo nabago, nabuhay, at nag-start ng operation iyong Terminal 2 kahapon (This port was destroyed by an earthquake in 2013—you can see it has changed, it has come alive, and the operation of its Terminal 2 started yesterday),” Tugade said.

He said the Port of Maribojoc in Bohol, 95 percent complete as of March and will serve as a dedicated cargo terminal and an alternative port to the Port of Tagbilaran is also nearing completion and may be operational by May or June this year.

In total, he said over 400 port improvements have so far been completed nationwide, with another 100 port projects set to be completed before the end of the year.

In addition, he said refrigerated containers continue to be donated to communities with limited capacity in transporting perishable goods or agricultural products.

To date, a total of 16 refrigerated containers have been donated in various provinces in Luzon and Visayas.

For the railway sector, he said the Metro Manila Subway is eyed to be completed before Duterte’s term ends in 2022, while the Light Rail Transit Line 2’s (LRT-2) East Extension Project—extending the LRT-2’s operation to Marikina and Antipolo—is set to be completed and operational within the year.

For the road sector, he said enforcers from the DOTr and its line agencies, as well as partners in the law enforcement sector, continue to implement and enforce strict health and safety protocols in public transport.

It said anti-colorum operations in Metro Manila and other regions were intensified to stop alleged ‘Covid-19 smuggling’ or illegally transporting individuals to and from areas under strict quarantine restrictions.

For authorized persons outside of residence (APOR) and other front-liners who are still in need of daily transportation, he said the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has opened 62 more traditional public utility jeepney (TPUJ) routes with 2,000 units in Metro Manila.

This brings a total of 414 TPUJ routes and 37,246 units operating in the NCR.

For provincial buses, the LTFRB has opened an additional 195 provincial bus routes, with more than 2,600 provincial bus units crossing Metro Manila.

He also touted other transport projects such as the DOTr’s Free Ride for Health Workers Program — with a recorded ridership of 2.250 million — the Free Ride Service for APORs, and the Service Contracting Program which provides additional income to drivers and operators of public transport. (Raymond Carl Dela Cruz, PNA)