A few years back while attending the Leaders in Development program of Harvard Kennedy School, our professor asked us to write one thing we aspired to achieve in the next ten years. We wrote it on a piece of paper and placed it beside our name card. I thought for a moment and scribbled — the Philippines achieving its full potential.
In the 1960s, the Philippines had the second highest per capita income in Asia, behind only Japan. A decade later, South Korea had passed our country in per capita income terms largely due to the successful implementation of the Economic Development Plan, where the government and public enterprises accounted for close to 40 percent of the total domestic investment in the period between 1963 and 1979 for the construction of infrastructure projects like highways, port facilities, and bridges.
Prior to the term of President Rodrigo Duterte, average infrastructure spending for the past five decades was only at 2.5 percent of the country’s GDP. The 2015 IMF report found that the Philippines had a lower public investment in comparison to other members of ASEAN.
We all know that Build, Build, Build is a program that is not only necessary but is in fact long overdue. If the Philippines is to achieve its full potential, then it must do something to cut losses due to traffic congestion in Metro Manila, which has gone up to ₱3.5 billion a day. It was at this point that Secretary Mark Villar presented the plan to decongest the 90-year-old EDSA, a 23.8-kilometer circumferential highway, which has long exceeded its maximum capacity of 288,000 vehicles a day.
The plan was not well received at the onset. Few believed it could be done. One critic at one point said “Ambisiyosa. Nasobrahan ang tama sa utak”. My reply was brief, “Our leaders ought to be more ambitious about what it plans, commits, and does. Filipinos have long deserved this. If we fail, it is our heads on the line”.
Four years later, with the completion of several big-ticket projects in Metro Manila, including the Skyway Stage 3, the NLEX Harbor Link, the Radial Road 10 Spur Link, the Laguna Lake Highway, the promise of returning EDSA back to its 1930 form is within arm’s reach.
The EDSA Decongestion Program FACT SHEET
Metro Manila is one of the world’s most densely populated cities with over 42,000 inhabitants per square kilometer. EDSA has not been extended since the 1960s and has already exceeded its capacity by about 39 percent.
The EDSA Decongestion Program is composed of 25 projects, which include 14 expressways spanning 121 kilometers and 11 bridges spanning 9.3 kilometers.
The mainline of the 18.83-kilometer Skyway Stage 3 has already been opened to the public alongside 10 ramps: Buendia (northbound on ramp & southbound off -ramp), Osmena-Quirino (northbound off-ramp), Plaza Dilao (southbound on-ramp), Quezon Avenue (northbound off-ramp and southbound off-ramp), Talayan-Quezon Avenue (northbound on ramp and southbound off ramp), and NLEX (northbound off-ramp and southbound on-ramp).
Skyway Stage 3 was not completed using its original alignment, which was approved in 2014. Due to right-of way difficulties, it had to be realigned following the San Juan River alignment. This was approved via Memorandum of Agreement, which was signed on October 25, 2018. Prior to this, site possession for the entire project was only at 8.64 percent.
The Memorandum of Agreement signed by San Miguel Corporation included an interconnection structure between Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3 and the NLEX-SLEX Connector. This is the first time in Philippine history that expressways operated by different concessionaires — as in this case, San Miguel Corporation and Metro Pacific — will interconnect.
Ten ramps of Skyway Stage 3 are still being constructed: Quirino (northbound on ramp), Plaza Dilao (southbound off ramp), United Nations (southbound off-ramp), Nagtahan (northbound off-ramp, northbound on-ramp), Araneta (northbound on-ramp, southbound off ramp), and C3 (northbound off-ramp, southbound on-ramp and southbound off-ramp).
The NLEX Harbor Link Segment 10, a 5.58-kilometer expressway connecting MacArthur Highway and C3 road will interconnect with the Skyway Stage 3 via the NLEX-SLEX Connector Road, an eight-kilometer expressway connecting the end of Segment 10 in C3 Road in Caloocan to PUP Sta Mesa in Manila.
The 2.6-kilometer NLEX Harbor Link C3-Radial Road 10 Spur Link spanning from C3 road in Caloocan to Radial Road 10 in Manila was the first project to be completed following the new COVID-19 protocol. It has effectively reduced travel time from Quezon City to Manila from two hours to only 20 minutes.
The NLEX - SLEX Connector is utilizing the Super T Technology, which would reduce construction schedule by about one year. The first five-kilometer segment spanning from C3 road to Espana is expected to be completed within the year.
The extension of Harbor Link Segment 10 to R-10 in Manila was strategic following the completion of the 4.75-kilometer Radial Road 10 expansion, a project which spanned seven presidents due to right of-way issues.
The NLEX Harbor Link Segment 8.2 is an 8.35-kilometer, four-lane divided expressway spanning from Segment 8.1 at Mindanao Avenue to Commonwealth Avenue.
The Alabang-Sucat Skyway Extension will build two additional lanes from Sucat Main Toll Plaza to Susana Heights. The project is now at 47 percent and will be delivered within the year.
The first segment of the 7.7 km C5-South Link Expressway Project spanning from Merville to C5 or SLEX has been completed in July 2019. This will eventually interconnect to Radial Road 1, Sucat Interchange and E. Rodriguez.
The Southeast Metro Manila Expressway is a 32.664-kilometer toll road expressway spanning from Taguig to Batasan Complex in Quezon City. It will reduce travel time from Bicutan to Batasan from one hour and 50 minutes to only 26 minutes.
The 6.94-kilometer Laguna Lake Highway is the first toll-free expressway in Metro Manila with segregated bicycle lanes. It has effectively reduced travel time from Taytay in Rizal to Bicutan from one hour to only 30 minutes.
The Fort Bonifacio Nichols Field Road (Lawton Avenue) involves the widening of the 3.3-kilometer Nichols Field Road. The project which is already at 60 percent is expected to be completed in 2021.
The Mindanao Avenue Extension is a 3.2-kilometer highway, which will reduce travel time from Quirino Highway to General Luis Avenue from one hour and 30 minutes to only 20 minutes.
The widening of the 1.086-kilometer Samar Street was completed in December 2018.
The 680-meter Binondo Intramuros Bridge, which will connect Intramuros and Binondo via a viaduct, will be equipped with pedestrian infrastructure.
The BGC-Ortigas Link Bridge, also known as the Kalayaan Bridge, will connect the cities of Taguig, Makati, and Pasig. Now, travel time between the central business districts of BGC and Ortigas has been reduced to only 12 minutes.
The 506-meter Estrella - Pantaleon Bridge will link Estrella Street in Makati and Barangka Drive in Mandaluyong within a span of 10 minutes.