NEW TRAINS. President Rodrigo Duterte inspects the brand new trains of the Metro Rail Transit Line 7 (MRT-7) after leading the unveiling ceremony at the MRT-7 tracks along Commonwealth Avenue in Diliman, Quezon City on Dec. 16, 2021. Improvements in the transport sector are part of the Duterte administration's massive Build, Build, Build program. (Presidential photo by Arman Baylon)

MANILA – Public transportation in the country is now nearing pre-new normal levels, nearly two years since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, with the Department of Transportation (DOTr) continuing its tight-rope walk between sufficient public transportation capacity and health protocols.

With most of the country under Alert Level 2 status, the DOTr has eased health protocols in public transportation, making the use of face shields optional and upping the maximum capacity of most public utility vehicles (PUV) to 70 percent.

DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade said these efforts to ease restrictions on public transportation are made to help the country’s economy recover.

Aside from allowing free-flowing public transportation, he emphasized the importance of continued investment in infrastructures to develop the country’s capabilities.

“Infrastructure is the key to economic growth. It is the dynamic platform upon which development can grow and can glow. It is for this reason that the DOTr, despite all the difficulties caused by the pandemic, continued to intensify the implementation of the ‘Build, Build, Build’ program,” Tugade said during a virtual meeting with foreign chambers of commerce on November 27, 2021.

Improved transport infrastructures allow for better mobility, giving Filipinos more time to spend with loved ones at home.

In the railway sector, the Light Rail Transit Line 2 (LRT-2) East Extension project has so far been completed—with seven other projects currently ongoing including the Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT-1) Cavite Extension, MRT-7, the Metro Manila Subway Project, PNR Clark Phase 1 and 2, the Common Station, and the Subic-Clark Railway System.

One of these keystone projects is the Metro Rail Transit Line 7 (MRT-7) currently over 60 percent complete and on track to be operational by December 2022.

Once completed, the 22-kilometer and 14-station railway system will reduce travel time from North Avenue in Quezon City to San Jose del Monte in Bulacan to just 35 minutes from the current two to three hours.

To date, six MRT-7 train sets, made up of 18 rail cars, have so far arrived in the country—with the MRT-7 expected to have a total of 36 train sets once completed.

In the maritime sector, the DOTr has so far completed 484 social and tourism port projects in the country, supporting the Duterte administration’s goal of “equitable growth and development” even in the farthest corners of the country.

One of these projects is the Port of Zamboanga and the ongoing construction of its passenger terminal building (PTB), expected to be the largest PTB in the country capable of accommodating 4,500 at any given time.

In the aviation sector, a total of 233 airport projects have so far been completed, with 84 currently ongoing.

Moreover, the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) has almost completed its rehabilitation while five other projects are under ongoing design and procurement—the LRT-2 West Extension, MRT-4, PNR Calamba, PNR Bicol, and the Mindanao Railway project.

In the road sector, three key projects have so far been complete—the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange, the Metropolitan Bike Lanes network, and the Edsa Busway.

Six other projects are under construction including the Edsa Greenways project, the Makati-Bonifacio Global City Greenways, Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, the Metro Manila BRT, the Taguig Integrated Terminal Exchange, and the Davao Public Transport Modernization Project. (PNA)