Build Build Build: Philippines gets new roads, highways

Rush hour or not, the crawling EDSA traffic is legendary. Nothing could be worse than being stuck on the 23-kilometer highway, xcept perhaps finding yourself stuck in it again the next day. It’s no surprise that novelist Dan Brown dubbed Manila as the Gates of Hell.

It was therefore a moment of pure bliss, an exhilarating somnambulant spell and a surge of pure cosmic energy for motorists to drive on the much-touted Skyway Stage 3 when the highway opened last January.

It is indeed every motorist’s dream to reach Makati from Quezon City and vice versa for less than 10 minutes.

Skyway, built and operated by San Miguel Corp., is indeed a dream come true as it fulfills the promise of connecting northern and southern Luzon.

The 18.83-kilometer elevated highway connects the North and South expressways. It officially opened last January 14 but SMC Infrastructure has not started collecting toll.

As of Feb. 11, 2021, the A. Bonifacio northbound off-ramp and the E. Rodriguez southbound off-ramp on Araneta Avenue have opened.

“With the opening of these ramps, those who are coming from Alabang, Parañaque, Las Piñas, Pasay, or Makati will no longer have to take EDSA and get stuck in several traffic chokepoints in order to get to Balintawak. Meanwhile, those coming from NLEX headed to Quezon City can opt to take Skyway 3 to get to E. Rodriguez Avenue,” SMC president and COO Ramon Ang said.

Ang’s fellow tycoon Enrique Razon, who is in the ports business as chairman of global ports operator International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI), commended Ang for completing the project.

“This is a very important infrastructure which took nine years to complete. Literally, this project faced a lot of road blocks… Kudos and congratulations, Ramon Ang,” Razon said during a recent virtual conference.

Ang said there would be more exits and connections that would be opened throughout the year to make the highway more efficient.

The good news is that it is just one of the many big-ticket infrastructure projects the private sector is pushing with the support of the government through its Build Build Build program.

During a recent webinar organized by Property Report PH, in partnership with Ayala Land’s Avida, Build Build Build Committee Chairperson Anna Mae Lamentillo said the government wants to build 25,343 kilometers of roads, 5,271 bridges, and 9,797 flood mitigation structures.

The Luzon Spine Network is one of the major projects under the program.

A total of 906 kilometers of high standard highways and expressways in Luzon, which is about twice the 382-kilometer stretch of existing highways in the island, is envisioned to be part of the Luzon Spine Network.

Closer to home

Just like the Skyway, these new road networks will enable Filipinos to be closer to home and spend less time in traffic.

This would enable Filipinos to spend more time with their loved ones.

Once complete, those who live in the outskirts of Metro Manila will no longer have to brave an arduous commute to get to their place of work.

Lamentillo said many cities will be more connected.

Thus, Laguna, Cavite, Sucat, Alabang, Tagaytay and Bulacan will be shorter drives compared to the past, with the help of these new road networks.

In the longer term, these infrastructure projects should pave the way for growth outside the metropolis.

Businesses will finally look beyond Metro Manila. Homeowners in nearby provinces will also find the value of their properties appreciate as new roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects are built.

These new road networks will surely decongest Luzon and hopefully improve the lives of Filipinos.

There are still a lot of big-ticket infrastructure projects that would be a reality in the coming years.

These include MRT-7, also a project of SMC.

“As of January 2021, the project is already at about 54 percent complete,” Ang said.

The project is expected to be finished by December 2022, and is seen to make daily commutes from Quezon City to San Jose del Monte, Bulacan faster and easier. It will link up with MRT-3 and LRT-1, providing better access and seamless travel, SMC said.

Government spending

But to continue rolling out more projects, the government needs to spend more on infrastructure and not just rely on the private sector.

Unfortunately, infrastructure spending dropped for the fifth straight month in November last year due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the budget cuts implemented earlier last year, latest data from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) showed.

Infrastructure and other capital outlays declined 50 percent to P40.3 billion in November from P80.9 billion a year ago. It was also down 22 percent to P548.8 billion during the 11-month period.

As a percentage of the economy’s output, infrastructure spending in the Philippines remains below five percent while our neighbors like Vietnam are investing north of five percent.

With more state spending, we will clearly see more infrastructure projects around the country and in no time, hopefully, the much-trumpeted Golden Age of Infrastructure may finally become a reality.