The truth about two #BuildBuildBuild projects

Manila Bulletin - - Views • Features - By ANNA MAE YU LAMENTILLO

CRIT­ICS of the ad­min­is­tra­tion re­cently pointed out that over 180,000 fam­i­lies will be dis­placed in Metro Manila should the NLEX-SLEX Con­nec­tor Road Project and the North-South Com­muter Rail­way (NSCR) Project push through. This claim is fic­ti­tious, in­ac­cu­rate, and mis­lead­ing.

For ex­am­ple, based on the cen­sus and tag­ging con­ducted by the Na­tional Hous­ing Au­thor­ity, the gov­ern­ment agency man­dated to re­lo­cate and re­set­tle In­for­mal Set­tler Fam­i­lies (ISFs) af­fected by the con­struc­tion of na­tional in­fra­struc­ture projects, the es­ti­mated num­ber of likely af­fected ISFs in the NLEX - SLEX Con­nec­tor Road Project is only 1700.

When com­pleted, the NLEX-SLEX Con­nec­tor Project, an 8-km ex­press­way from C3 Road in Caloocan City to PUP in Sta. Mesa, Manila, to the com­mon align­ment of Sky­way Stage 3, will re­duce travel time be­tween SLEX and NLEX from 2 hours to only 20 min­utes.

More­over, ac­cord­ing to the De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion (DOTr), what crit­ics ap­pear to lump to­gether as the NSCR Project con­sists of four dif­fer­ent projects, namely: PNR Clark 1 (38-km, Tu­tuban-Malo­los), PNR Clark 2 (51-km, Malo­los-Clark), PNR Calamba (56-km, Manila-Calamba), and PNR Bi­col (653-km, Mani­laMatnog; Batan­gas).

Cur­rently, the Philip­pines only has 76.9 kilo­me­ters of oper­a­tional rail­ways. The gov­ern­ment tar­gets to build and lay the ground­work for ap­prox­i­mately 1,900 kilo­me­ters of rail­ways by 2022 and be­yond, which will ben­e­fit around 4.5 mil­lion pas­sen­gers per day.

In a joint state­ment, De­part­ment of Pub­lic Works and High­ways and DOTr noted that ISFs af­fected by the NSCR projects are not con­fined to 38 barangays in Manila, but are rather spread across Re­gion III (Cen­tral Lu­zon), Na­tional Cap­i­tal Re­gion, Re­gion IV-A (Cal­abar­zon), and Re­gion V (Bi­col).

It is also stressed that con­trary to the fig­ure pre­sented by cer­tain crit­ics, the es­ti­mated num­ber of likely af­fected ISFs is 344 for PNR Clark 1; 1,173 for PNR Clark 2; 11,384 for PNR Calamba; and 1,700 for the NLEX-SLEX Con­nec­tor Project. For PNR Bi­col, the pre­vi­ous es­ti­mate of 79,531 ISFs will be greatly re­duced be­cause of the DOTr and PNR’s ap­proach of ex­plor­ing re-align­ments to avoid dis­place­ment of per­sons, to min­i­mize con­flict with road traf­fic and struc­tures, and to straighten curves to achieve faster op­er­at­ing speeds.

Even as­sum­ing the num­ber of af­fected ISFs for PNR Bi­col is not re­duced (which it will), the to­tal num­ber of af­fected ISFs at 94,132 across four re­gions is far apart from the es­ti­ma­tion pro­vided.

Fur­ther, all four phases of the NSCR project are sep­a­rately fi­nanced by the Asian De­vel­op­ment Bank (ADB), the Ja­pan In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion Agency (JICA), and China.

As with other ADB and JICA fi­nanced projects, bor­rower coun­tries such as the Philip­pines are re­quired to en­sure com­pli­ance not just with all ap­pli­ca­ble lo­cal laws and reg­u­la­tions on land ac­qui­si­tion and re­set­tle­ment, but also with the ADB’s Safe­guard Pol­icy State­ment and JICA’s Guide­lines for So­cial Con­sid­er­a­tions. This means that part of project prepa­ra­tion and im­ple­men­ta­tion is a com­pre­hen­sive eval­u­a­tion of the project’s po­ten­tial so­cial im­pact, and the im­ple­men­ta­tion of mea­sures that will en­sure that af­fected per­sons are left “no worse off,” as re­quired un­der ADB and JICA So­cial Safe­guards.

It bears re­peat­ing that th­ese projects are long over­due, and are ul­ti­mately meant to al­le­vi­ate the decades-long suf­fer­ing of thou­sands of Filipino com­muters in Lu­zon. More­over, th­ese projects are poised to eco­nom­i­cally trans­form the re­gions, fer­ry­ing in com­merce, and in­creas­ing in­comes faster than be­fore.

The DOTr and the DPWH, un­der the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion, re­main stead­fast in its goal of giv­ing a bet­ter life for all Filipinos, and will not be di­verted by crit­i­cisms an­chored on false and mis­lead­ing data.

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