By JULLIE Y. DAZA
A flood-free, P179 billion subway?
The way Antonio Lee Tiu puts it, “The subway will prevent floods.” Those of us who fear a scenario of being trapped 10 stories underground in a train when it rains may take refuge in physics: Water seeks its own level. As the 44-year-old builder of the first subway in the Philippines explains it, when you dig a hole water goes down into the hole. You don’t expect water to shoot up, it can only go down.
The rain fell in buckets last Friday and tied up traffic for hours around Kamuning in Quezon City, home of Wilson Lee Flores’ pan de sal bakery, but Tony was not fazed, he continued talking about his partnership with Makati Mayor Abigail Binay and a Chinese company. Reporters didn’t seem afraid that any minute now the rain would produce a flood — the bakery has no roof, only a trapeze-like tent after its second floor was destroyed by fire last year.
It was Tony who proposed the project to Mayor Binay, not the other way around. Expected to be completed in five years, the subway is a 10.1 km loop – like a capital C – that will connect Ayala Ave., Circuit City, City Hall, Bliss, University of Makati and Ospital ng Makati. The map that he sketched for me shows the line ending at Osmak, alongside a circle that he marked BGC.
The Chinese partner will begin digging in the next six months and assume the long-term financing “for the rest” of the works after an initial outlay of $350 million. Makati has 25 percent share as equity owner. A ticket should cost about 20 percent more than a ride on the MRT. Extend the line to Manila and Mandaluyong? It’s a possibility.
Tony is CEO of Philippine Infradev Holdings Inc., the project proponent, plus ANI, IRC Green, Big Chill, Agricultural Bank of the Philippines. For all the excitement over the Makati subway – will it look like London’s Underground, or, closer to home, the underwater tunnel between Hong Kong and Kowloon? – “my focus is still on agriculture.”
He enjoys a government grant to reside in The Hague, the Netherlands. “It may be a small country but it’s no. 2 in agricultural production.”