LGUs: Crucial to transportation solutions


Pandemic end in sight?

We have been receiving a good number of queries from our readers regarding a transportation infrastructure project that will directly benefit residents and commercial establishments located east of Metro Manila.

This is the planned extension of LRT Line 2 to Cogeo.

It seems the national government’s determination to solve the worsening traffic situation has triggered a lot of interest in alternative modes of transportation, particularly rail-based solutions. We recall that in September last year, President Bongbong Marcos Jr. announced that his administration is “building more roads and rail lines” to solve the country’s traffic congestion issue. And, early this month, he told his cabinet that he wants a comprehensive solution and a holistic approach to the problem, not the usual piecemeal strategy.

Several mega-rail-based projects went into high gear in the past few months. These are proof that the government is looking at rail-based solutions to ease the traffic woes in urban centers. Among these mega-projects are the Metro Manila Subway Project (MMSP) and the North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR).

Based on recent news items, the MMSP is now 40 percent complete. Meanwhile, the construction of the NSCR – the 147-kilometer modern high-speed train that will connect Calamba in the south and New Clark City in the north – has started in Metro Manila. The Manila section of the old Philippine National Railways (PNR) line has been closed to give way to construction activities for this project which will feature a high-speed train connection to the Clark International Airport.

Despite the focus of the limelight in the MMSP and the NSCR, the national government has not forgotten the not-so-mega rail-based projects. The extension of the LRT 2 line from its present eastern end-point in Masinag to Cogeo, we were told, is set to commence soon.

The anniversary of the first eastward extension is on the 26th of this month. It will be recalled that on that day three years ago, the soft opening of the first two additional stations – Marikina and Antipolo – took place.

Almost a year ago, I joined officials of the Department of Transportation (DOTr), the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA), and some Korean consultants to inspect the areas where three additional stations could be built. We injected a little fun into this dream project by asking residents of Antipolo to send suggestions on social media as to where they think the three stations should be located.

There is a West Extension Project where the LRT Line 2 which currently stops at Recto Avenue will have three additional stations and will reach up to Pier 4 – three kilometers from its present final station. This means commuters traveling from Cogeo will no longer have to transfer rides to get to Divisoria. This is an exciting idea for the many micro-entrepreneurs in areas east of NCR who source their commodities from there.

We are also elated by the prospects of the westward extension happening soon. One of the planned additional stations will interconnect LRT 2 with NSCR. This means that, in the near future, commuters from cities and towns east of Metro Manila, such as Rizal, Pasig, and Marikina, may now travel southward to Calamba or northward to Bulacan and Pampanga using the high-speed trains of the NSCR connecting from LRT 2.

In August last year, the LRTA said it was finalizing the study for the LRT 2 eastward extension which will then be submitted to the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA). The national government will then decide if the project is to be done through a Public-Private Partnership or local government funding.

Also recently, the limelight was focused on one of the major challenges that transportation infrastructure projects are usually confronted with: right-of-way (ROW) issues. News reports said that the DOTr is now focused on the resolution of ROW concerns for both the MMSP and the NSCR projects.

Some news items said the ROW issues have allegedly been aggravated by what they referred to as the lack of cooperation from local governments, particularly at the barangay level. There are allegations that certain barangay officials had prevented NSCR construction teams from entering project areas covered by their jurisdiction. This led President Bongbong Marcos Jr, to create an inter-agency committee just to deal with ROW concerns.

ROW is crucial to road and rail projects. Contractors cannot begin work unless these are delivered to them. The biggest challenges here are usually informal settler communities and illegal structures. The process of dealing with these is a tedious one.

This is where the participation of local governments comes in. LGU executives have direct contact with barangays and establishments that may be affected by a project. The authority, moral suasion, and resources of local governments are valuable elements in the bid to settle ROW-related issues and help the projects proceed and be completed on time.

We saw this partnership at work when the national government commenced the widening of Ortigas Avenue Extension. The Rizal provincial government lent its full support to the effort of the implementing agencies to obtain the cooperation of affected parties. The partnership of the LGU and the agencies proved crucial to the project. The agencies that will build the LRT 2 Cogeo extension are guaranteed the same support.

(For feedback, please email it to [email protected] or send it to Block 6 Lot 10 Sta. Barbara 1 cor. Bradley St., Mission Hills Subd., Brgy. San Roque, Antipolo City, Rizal.)