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Japan presents $57-B ‘dream plan’ to solve Metro congestion

MANILA, Philippines — Noting that Metro Manila’s traffic, infrastructure and housing problems can no longer be solved by the National Capital Region alone, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has come up with a “Dream Plan” for what it calls a “Greater Capital Region,” composed of the NCR and neighboring Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog.

In a JICA study titled “Roadmap for Transport Infrastructure Development for Metro Manila and its Surrounding Areas,” a copy of which was obtained by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the technical arm of the Japanese government’s official development aid program said “Regions III and IV-A must work out effective ways to maximize the positive aspects of their proximity to the buzzling capital region and at the same time  contribute to mitigating the problems of the metropolis.”

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The study, conducted from March to December 2013, recommended  public and private sector investments of up to $57.3 billion through 2030 to realize the overall impact encapsuled in five “NOs”—“No traffic congestion, no excessive transport cost burden for low income groups, no households living in high hazard risk areas, no barriers for seamless mobility of people, and no air pollution” in the Mega Manila area.

The dream plan’s vision is “growth with GPS,” short for “Gate to a wellspring of hope, Place for livable communities and Space for dynamic business centers.”

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The JICA proposed the following short-term projects aimed at solving Metro Manila’s worsening traffic problems, hazard risks and growth management:

• Urban roads: Rehabilitation of major roads like the 23-kilometer Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, or Edsa, the country’s busiest thoroughfare; develop secondary roads; and completion of the so-called “missing links,” which refer to flyovers, interchanges and bridges.

•Expressways: Complete the North Luzon Expressway and South Luzon Expressway connection, including their access to the country’s major ports; build the C-6 Extension, Laguna lakeshore dike road and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport expressway; and finalize an overall metropolitan expressway network plan.

•Urban railways: Finish committed urban rail projects and their connectivity; build the North-South Commuter Rail, which aims to connect Malolos, Bulacan in Central Luzon and Calamba, Laguna, in Southern Tagalog.

•Road-based public transport: Modernize bus and jeepney operations and facilities, as well as improve and expand sidewalks and pedestrians.

•Traffic management: Strengthen traffic enforcement capacities; introduce systematic road safety interventions; and conduct comprehensive traffic management studies.

•Gateway airports and ports: Conduct studies on the development of a new international airport that will replace the aging Ninoy Aquino International Airport, which can be closed and converted to a business district, and options like putting up a new facility in Sangley, Cavite City; development of the Clark International airport in Pampanga into a secondary gateway airport; redevelopment of Manila’s Port Area, but a cap should be placed on the expansion of Manila ports; and facilitate the diversion of Manila port operations to Batangas City and the Subic Freeport in Zambales.

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According to JICA, “transport can be a catalyst to integrate cities, growth centers, gateways, urban and rural areas, facilitate local economic development and promote environmental protection sustainability, as well as facilitate the planned and guided growth and expansion of Metro

Manila.”

For short-term  programs, it said these were “doable or with a high possibility of being completed” during the period 2014 to 2016.

In its proposed action plan, the agency also called for the clearing of  backlogs in unimplemented government infrastructure projects; close monitoring of the delivery capacity of transport agencies; improving management control of unsolicited proposals for road and railway projects to ensure network integrity; creating clear policy frameworks for privatization of railway lines to avoid direct state involvement in rail operations; harnessing resources of local government units in the construction of secondary roads; and outsourcing project studies to support current institutional weaknesses.”

The JICA study noted that about 500,000 people live in “high hazard risk areas” in Metro Manila and 1.4 million people in similar areas in Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog.

On the other hand, about 700,000 people reside in “moderate hazard risk areas” in the NCR and P1.8 million people in similar communities in Regions III and IV-A.

The agency also reported a “backlog of 800,000 housing units in Metro Manila,” and pointed out the “need to resettle 300,000 additional households,” including squatter families.

It proposed that squatter families living in high risk areas and those in need of affordable housing be accommodated in “planned new urban areas with good accessibility and living environment” in the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite and Laguna.

“Opportunities exist for large-scale new towns development” in Regions III and IV-A for both public and private properties in these areas.

The JICA stressed the need to “strengthen development control and guidance to the private sector to maximize benefits to both public and private sectors.”

Other key government interventions include “an integrated transport mobility, disaster preparedness and resilience, good environment and high-quality public space, affordable housing policy and delivery program, and land use management and development control.”

In its study, the JICA study said it consulted several Philippine government agencies, including the National Economic and Development Authority, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Transportation and Communications, and the Metro Manila Development Authority, as well as some private sector stakeholders.

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TAGS: Foreign aid, Global Nation, Housing, Infrastructure, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Jica, Metro, Metro Manila, Traffic, urban development, urban planning
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