This year is another challenging year for the country as it moves toward economic recovery.
Among the factors that will fuel economic recovery is infrastructure—the physical foundation of progress. While the country is under lockdown because of the pandemic, the Build, Build, Build Program of the government did not come to a halt. Proof of this was the soft opening recently of the Metro Manila Skyway (MMS) Stage 3 project of San Miguel Corporation under the government’s PPP program and projects.
The MMS Stage 3 project is an elevated expressway from Buenda, Makati to the North Luzon Expressway in Balintawak , Quezon City, thus connecting the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and North Luzon Expressway (NLEX). It has a length of 18.83 kilometers. It is expected to decongest traffic in Metro Manila, including EDSA, and create new transport routes. Aside from traffic decongestion, travel time from Buendia to Balintawak that usually takes two hours will be reduced to just 15 to 20 minutes.
Economic loss due to traffic in Metro Manila has been enormous. According to the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in 2017, the loss was Php3.5 billion a day and by 2035 could increase to Php5.4 billion daily unless interventions are made. The amount could have been used to finance government projects. Meanwhile, a study by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) of 278 cities showed that Metro Manila was the most congested.
In an interview during the partial opening of Skyway 3 aired by SMNI News Channel last week, San Miguel Corporation President and COO Ramon S. Ang (RSA) reaffirmed support to decongest Metro Manila. “We support all the plans of the government to decongest Metro Manila,” he said. When the MMS Skyway 3 becomes fully operational, he estimated that around 200,000 vehicles will use the Skyway 3 daily. This will cut the volume of vehicles by around 50 percent from its current 400,000 cars a daily plying along EDSA.
“EDSA is 400,000 cars a day. Pag nabuksan ‘to end of January siguro masasanay na tao dito, siguro February 200,000 cars na dito. So pag 200,000 cars a day dumaan dito ang EDSA wala na masyadong traffic,” he stated.
Even with only four lanes available in the partial opening, travel using the Skyway 3 was lauded by motorists. Former Senator JV Ejercito had tweeted “First time to try Skway stage 3 all I can say is Wow! This will definitely improve traffic in the Metro specially EDSA. Took me less than 30 minutes from Alabang entry up to off ramp in Quezon Avenue. Thank God RSA who has vision.” By 14 January 2021, all lanes were opened.
Another testament came from Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya who posted on his FB last January 2: “What a breeze! BF Homes Paranaque to DILG Central Office, Quezon Avenue corner EDSA took only 45 minutes!!! I entered Skyway at Sucat and exited at Quezon Avenue. Only 4 lanes out of 7 were open and some construction was still on-going but the ride was smooth.”
One city in Metro Manila that will surely benefit from the Skyway 3 is Valenzuela. For Mayor Rex Gatchalian, this is an infrastructure that will further spur the economic development of the city.
“Valenzuela is the ultimate beneficiary of this. Suddenly, the northernmost city of NCR won’t be so far from the rest of NCR.” He added, “I’m sure real estate values in the city will go up and more investments will come in.”
The Skyway 3 had its groundbreaking ceremony in January 2014 will be officially inaugurated on January 14, 2021. It is well-lighted with rope lights and non-slip surface. Originally targeted for completion in three years (2017), it was hounded by right-of-way problem. This is not a unique problem of the Skyway 3 project. Other government infrastructure projects had the same concern even in the past.
The completion of the Skyway 3 is another proof of the viability of public-private partnership.
RSA described SMC’s cooperation with the government as “ very, very good.” He thanked President Rodrigo Duterte for the latter’s strong government policy in resolving the right of way problem. “Mga kababayan pasalamatan natin si President Duterte sa kanyang strong government. Kung hindi dahil sa strong government policy ni President Duterte hindi natin nagawa itong mga right of way na ito, hindi natin magawa ito, hind natin maacomplish ito.”
He also thanked DPWH Secretary Mark Villar whom he described as hardworking. “Of all the public highways secretary na nakita ko sa buhay ko, (Mark) he’s the best among them.”
In the same interview, RSA told fellow Filipinos to be patient. “We are here to build more,” he said, adding that Bicutan and Sucat will also be decongested.
Another ongoing mega flagship infrastructure project of San Miguel Corporation is the Bulacan International Airport Project. The bill for its franchise lapsed into law on 20 December 2020 without the signature of President Duterte in accordance with Article VI, Section 27 (1) of the Constitution. The law, Republic Act No. 11506, grants “San Miguel Aerocity Inc. a franchise to construct, develop, establish, operate, and maintain a domestic and international airport in the municipality of Bulakan, province of Bulacan, and to construct, develop, establish, operate, and maintain an adjacent airport city.”
The new airport is envisioned to decongest the existing NAIA, pump prime the economy through employment generation, investments and increase in tourists arrivals. It will also help decongest Metro Manila with the expected transfer of residents to Bulacan. “Pag nagawa pa natin yung Bulacan airport karaminhan ng mga taong bayan lilipat na dun at wala ka nang makikitang squatters dahil dun murang-mura ang lupa, low cost housing , murang murang, affordable,” RSA said. He quashed speculations that he will be joining politics saying his concentration is to really help our country by building more infrastructure. “About politics, I will run for barangay captain when I’m 85 years old”, he said.