Friday, 3 July 2009

Update on Philippine SONA projects (1st of 5)

Manila (PNA) -– President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's flagship projects designed to "close the loop" between the Philippines' Super Regions are nearing completion, while her other State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) commitment programs such as economic reforms and poverty alleviation are gaining significant headway.

To start off, the "closing the loop" program under President Arroyo's Super Regions strategy is more than 80 percent complete. These are the priority infrastructure projects in the North Luzon Agribusiness Quadrangle (NLAQ), Luzon Urban Beltway (LUB), Central Philippines, and Mindanao Super Regions.

One such priority project is located within the Luzon Urban Beltway, wherein the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) has been interconnected.

"President Arroyo ordered the front-loading of infrastructure development projects with a specific directive that all infrastructure programs must be bid out during the first semester of the current year," says Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo and Presidential Assistant for Region 3, in an interview with the Philippines News Agency (PNA).

Fajardo said that once the interconnection of SCTEX, NLEX and South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) is realized, the travel time between Subic in Zambales and Metro Manila will only take one hour and a half. "It used to be three hours, but now, it's a shorter time," she added.

"Travel time between Clark in Angeles City, Pampanga and Subic Naval Base in Olongapo City, Zambales will take 30 minutes, thanks to the North Luzon Beltway Hub of the Philippines," Fajardo said.

"Central Luzon is situated in the heart of Asia and it has so much potential," she said, adding this is the reason President Arroyo is hastening the completion of infrastructure projects such as the road networks.

The Malacañang official also said that SCTEX would eventually connect La Union province from Poro Point in San Fernando City to Baguio City in Benguet province, and also Quezon and Batangas provinces in the Southern Tagalog region through the NLE-SLEX linkage.

'Closing the loop'

"It's what you call 'closing the loop'. It's also known as Luzon Urban Beltway (LUB)," Fajardo said.

The priority infrastructure projects which "close the loop" are classified under the North Luzon Agribusiness Agricultural Quadrangle (NLAQ), the LUB's Transport and Logistics Infrastructure, Central Philippines Super Region Enhanced Central Philippines' Competitive Advantage in Tourism, and Mindanao Super Region Enhanced Agribusiness Development in Mindanao.

The NLAQ, according to Fajardo, involves the Dingalan Port Project in Aurora province and the La Trinidad Fruit and Vegetable Minimal Processing Plant in Benguet.

The LUB Transport and Logistics Infrastructure consists of Subic Bay Port Development Project, Batangas Port Development Project, Lucena Port, and Cawit Port in Boac, Marinduque.

Found in the Central Philippines Super Region Enhanced Central Philippines' Competitive Advantage in Tourism are access roads to the Bacolod-Silay Airport and Bohol Circumferential Road; Pantao Port in Albay, Jagna Port in Jagna, Bohol; Ubay Port in Ubay, Bohol; Siquijor Port in Siquijor; Maasin Port in Southern Leyte; Limasawa Port in Southern Leyte; New Iloilo Airport in Iloilo, and New Bacolod-Silay Airport in Negros Occidental.

Mindanao Super Region Enhanced Agribusiness Development in Mindanao covers the Diosdado Macapagal Bridge in Butuan City, 210-megawatt Clean Coal-Fired Power Plant in Misamis Oriental and Solar Power Plant in Cagayan de Oro City.

SLEX-STAR linkages

At present, the SLEX project is 76.87 percent accomplished. The Alabang viaduct in Muntinlupa City was opened to the public late last year, while Toll Roads 2 and 3 are scheduled to be completed in June and December 2009, respectively.

The SLEX project, costing P8.5 billion, involves the rehabilitation and upgrading of the existing 28.54-kilometer length of the expressway starting from the Alabang viaduct up to Calamba City in Laguna, and an additional 7.6-kilometer highway to be constructed from Calamba to Sto. Tomas in Batangas that will connect to the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR) 2.

Once completed, the SLEX-STAR linkage will provide access to the Port of Batangas and offer a seamless nautical and land highway that will save both time and transport cost for both passengers and freight.

It will relieve traffic on the old highway and significantly reduce travel from 46 minutes to 26 minutes when traveling from Sto. Tomas, Batangas to Alabang, according to a statement from the Presidential Management Staff (PMS).

"The extension of the SLEX is a major infrastructure project. It will not only ease and speed up travel to and from Batangas and Laguna but also connect the CALABARZON (Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon) to the Luzon Urban Beltway and NLAQ through other priority infrastructure projects such as the C5-NLEX-SLEX Link, Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) project and Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) project," the PMS reported.

"With this project, new centers of business and commerce in the South are expected to open, which would help decongest Metro Manila," PMS Secretary Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said in a report, adding "this would provide our exporters faster and safer access to the Free Port Zone in Subic and the airport in Clark and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA)."

To make sure that the project is completed on time, Esperon said "the Pro-Performance Team is pressing the adoption of a 24-hour work shift and constant monitoring of the rate of accomplishment of the remaining sections of SLEX."

C5-NLEX-SLEX interconnection

Fajardo said the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) recently kicked off the construction of the P520-million Tandang Sora-Luzon Avenue flyover crossing Commonwealth Avenue in Old Balara, Quezon City that will interconnect the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX).

The infrastructure is one of the vital links in the 41-kilometer NLEX-SLEX project of President Arroyo.

"DPWH has started the implementation of this project which is in line with the instructions of the President to interconnect the two expressways and eventually to the Manila-Cavite Coastal Road in Las Pinas City via C-5," Fajardo said.

On the other hand, DPWH Undersecretary Romeo Momo, in charge for Luzon operations, explained in a report that the construction involves the completion of a flyover that would directly connect Tandang Sora Avenue (Old Balara side) to Luzon Avenue in Quezon City. It measures more than 500 lineal meters, including approaches with four lanes at two lanes per direction.

He said the structure also has access or service roads on both sides for vehicles coming from and going to Commonwealth Avenue and C-5 and vice versa.

"Once the project is completed, it will be beneficial to all motorists and businessmen in the area," Momo said.

Motorists, especially those coming from Katipunan Avenue would no longer use U-turn slots in Commonwealth Avenue to go to Luzon Avenue as the project directly connects both ways.

The implementation of the project is in coordination with the Quezon City government and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).

In August 2008, Public Works and Highways Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. signed an agreement with Quezon City Mayor Feliciano Belmonte, wherein the latter assumed the responsibility of securing road right-of-way and some civil works.

Meanwhile, two multi-billion-peso flood control projects –- the Agno River Flood Control Project Phase II and the CAMANAVA (Caloocan-Malabon-Navotas-Valenzuela) Flood Control Project -- are nearing completion with 90 percent accomplishment. The CAMANAVA project is expected to ease flood problems in Metro Manila.

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