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containerized cargoes be transported by RoRo or by train

Philippine Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade is eyeing transportation of containerized cargoes by rail.

Philippine Transportation Secretary Atty Arthur Tugade has outlined wide-ranging plans for the agency, including deliverables for the first 100 days, in a recent meeting with the business community.

These plans—both short and long-term–include decongesting road and air traffic, drastically improving services in mass transport railways, and establishing a rail system for containerized cargoes.

In a presentation during the World Trade Center Metro Manila Up Close and Personal Forum last July 19, Tugade said he aims to establish a rail system for containerized cargoes and improve the roll-on/roll-off (RoRo) sector in the country as a way to decongest roads.

“It is my dream and it is my plan that all containerized cargoes will cease to ply the highways. It is my plan to make containerized cargoes be transported by RoRo or by train,” Tugade said.

“If… we are able to do that, mathematically and theoretically we will do a decongestion program in the highways,” he added.

In a 2015 discussion paper, government-owned think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) said that with traffic congestion worsening in Metro Manila, “shippers/locators could opt to bypass Metro Manila by using the rail system to transport their goods while at the same time truckers can still provide their services when moving the goods from the inland container terminals to the end destination of the goods or the other way around.”

The PIDS paper, entitled “A System-wide Study of the Logistics Industry in the Greater Capital Region,” added it may also be “high time to consider moving or developing new export processing zones near the railway line with the primary objective of using the rail system to transport the goods coming from or going to these export processing zones.”

It further noted that “to bypass the congested roads of Metro Manila, inland container terminals could be designed along the periphery, like in Calamba, Laguna and Angeles, Pampanga where rail freight services could be offered, whether the cargo was going to the ports of Manila, Batangas, or Subic as well as vice-versa.”

Early this year, the Philippine National Railway and the MRail, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Manila Electric Co., were supposed to sign a deal to revive the Manila-Calamba cargo train. But this was postponed to give the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) and the railway authority time to resolve the right-of-way issue over a small track near the Manila International Container Terminal.

Philippine International Seafreight Forwarders Association chairperson Mariz Regis told PortCalls after the event that a rail system for cargoes is one of the industry’s recommendations since it will enhance efficiency, promote green logistics, and cut logistics costs.

Developing RoRo

On developing the RoRo sector, DOTr plans to add a new RoRo terminal to the existing 13 at San Fernando Port in Cebu under the Nautical Highway Central Spine.

Tugade said this is while continuously making improvements to existing terminals for passenger safety and convenience.

In terms of regulation and policies, DOTr eyes limiting the age of RoRo vessels to a maximum of 35 years and phasing out wood-hulled boats that carry 50 to 100 passengers.

Earlier, domestic carrier Lorenzo Shipping Corp. president Roberto Umali suggested that to ensure safety in domestic shipping, the government should phase out wood-hulled vessels and put a cap on vessel age (35 years old).

The DOTr will also impose compulsory insurance for passengers and implement strict vessel classification standards.

To encourage private investments in the RoRo sector, Tugade said being eyed are further incentives to encourage bareboat/lease purchase agreements as well as making available financial aid or loans from banks.

New PPA general manager Jay Daniel Santiago earlier said one of his agency’s priorities is to improve RoRo facilities in line with the DOTr’s goal to increase investments in the sector. Right now, the agency has ongoing RoRo ramp constructions at various ports nationwide, but a long-range plan is to identify possible areas for new RoRo facilities, Santiago said.

Air transportation

Meanwhile, the DOTr is eyeing the construction of rapid exit taxiways and additional apron for aircraft parking as one of the immediate measures to decongest NAIA.

Tugade said this will be part of his agency’s deliverables for the first 100 days toward reducing congestion in flight arrivals and departures at NAIA.

He added that the department will also redesign arrival and departure procedures and strictly implement flight schedules.

Tugade likewise wants a computerized procedure for alerting airport and government officials when certain laws and requirements need to be complied with soon. An example is the notice for the maintenance of runways at airports which, under international standards, should undergo asphalt overlay every five years.

NAIA recently sustained a big runway crack that caused runway closure and flight diversions to Clark International Airport. The hub’s last asphalt overlay was in 2011.

Tugade took full responsibility for the incident and apologized to passengers for the inconvenience, saying the incident was a learning experience and vowing never to let it happen again.

He said DOTr has completed discussions with United Kingdom-based traffic air management firm NATS about fast tracking the implementation of its recommendations on runway utilization. Last year, the transport department tapped NATS to increase hourly air traffic movements at NAIA to 60 from 40 by determining the optimal configuration for the airport’s intersecting runways. The government was scheduled to implement NATS’ recommendations after six months of evaluation.

General aviation

The agency will also regulate general aviation, or non-commercial flights, during peak periods and equip airports with night-rated capabilities. Tugade said he will move general aviation outside of NAIA to free up more space in the air hub. Equipping airports with night-rated capability will also help reduce air congestion since carriers will no longer have to squeeze flights into NAIA during the day, Tugade said.

To ease passenger congestion in the arrival and departure areas, the transport chief said illegally parked vehicles and road obstructions at key intersections in NAIA complex will have to be cleared. An open taxi service for all terminals is now being operated, while empty taxis will be banned from entering the departure area.

Additionally, DOTr is studying whether to remove or beef up x-ray screening machines at entrances to reduce queues. Technology, too, will be utilized to fast-track check-ins, while the immigration desk will be asked to provide more manpower during peak periods.

Tugade said all comfort rooms at NAIA’s four terminals will have “fresh-smelling and nice-looking toilets” by August 1. DOTr recently signed a memorandum of agreement with local airlines for carriers to take charge of the upkeep of washrooms at the four terminals at no cost to government.

Tugade added in jest that he has more assistance projects to broach to the airlines.

Another plan, which would be a welcome development for Filipinos abroad, is the lifting of terminal fees for overseas Filipino workers. Tugade said President Duterte gave a thumbs-up when Tugade pitched the suggestion.

Meanwhile, the transport secretary will also review the functions of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).

“I do not believe in having a regulatory body (that) at the same time (is also) operating (some airports). Tell me, what is the logic there?” Tugade remarked.

PISFA’s Regis welcomed the plan. She noted that the Philippine Multimodal Transport and Logistics Roadmap, whose crafting was spearheaded by PISFA, suggests the review of the charter of CAAP, which serves both as a regulator and an operator of airports.

Road transportation

Projects to ease road congestion in Metro Manila that don’t need the grant of special powers by Congress are part of DOTr plans for the first 100 days.

In line with this, a traffic management team has been created by the transport department while the administration waits for Congress to hand the special authority to President Duterte to address transportation issues in Metro Manila, said Tugade.

The management team is composed of executives from the DOTr, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Highway Patrol Group (HPG), Land Transportation Office (LTO), and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).

While the MMDA and local government units, not DOTr, are supposed to be responsible for traffic management, the transport chief said the current transportation problems in Metro Manila have already reached crisis levels that “(are) not solvable” by just one entity or organization.

Within 100 days, the management team targets sustaining traffic enforcement at chokepoints and enforcing the no parking, anti-colorum, and anti-smoke belching policies.

Tugade said he has already started by taking back “streets that belong to the government” at usual chokepoints such as the roads near De La Salle University in Manila and Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City.

He said illegally parked cars and colorum vehicles are to be brought to impounding areas outside of Metro Manila such as Tarlac, adding that their owners “are not entitled to convenience” after the inconvenience they bring to other commuters.

Tugade stressed, however, that he will be careful not to confiscate all colorum vehicles because no public utility vehicles might remain to serve passengers and “people might complain.”

He said DOTr is reviewing public utility franchises and will issue a policy on this by the end of September.

DOTr, together with LTO, LTFRB, and Department of Environment and Natural Resources, has also convened a working group to enforce the anti-smoke belching policy. He revealed that the government has eight smoke emission testing machines, none of which work. If need be, he said he will acquire such machines.

To reduce the country’s carbon footprint, the DOTr chief said they plan to craft a soft-loan mechanism in which jeepney drivers sell their vehicles as junk and use the proceeds to acquire an electric jeepney. The soft loan will be paid by the drivers through the “boundary” system. This plan, Tugade noted, won’t be taking away work from the drivers.

Other targets for the first 100 days include synchronizing traffic lights, improving street signage and markings, mapping out secondary routes, consulting with various stakeholders, expanding point-to-point bus services, deploying more premium airport shuttle buses, and encouraging schools to apply measures on managing transport demand.

In addition, Tugade has asked village and subdivision homeowners to open up some of their private roads during peak hours to help mitigate traffic on public roads. He said this is cheaper than constructing “roads that will only (add) misery to the existing congestion.”

He added that he will not “borrow it (subdivision roads) for free” and that DOTr will assist in maintenance and security costs.

Meanwhile, Tugade said the three toll operators have agreed to a one-toll system to reduce travel time. The system will just have to segregate revenues generated by each toll operator.

Further, the DOTr is studying several projects to be initiated also within the first 100-day period. These include the bus rapid transit system for the Fairview-Makati route via C5 to reduce commuter numbers on EDSA by 120,000 passengers; cable cars, which he said were introduced effectively in Bolivia and are easier to procure than building an underpass; double-decker buses; expansion of the point-to-point bus service to residential areas in Makati; and pontoon bridges over the Pasig River at Circuit City and near the Makati city hall.


The DOTr will set out to improve within the first 100 days the capacity of Metro Manila’s mass railway by adding more trains and implementing “low-hanging fruit” measures to enhance passengers’ riding comfort.

This is the best way to improve the “dismal state” of the rail transit system and decongest traffic in the metropolitan area, said Tugade.

In his first 100 days of assuming office, Tugade said they will work to reduce queues at ticket booths in railway stations by allowing train tickets to be sold in malls and stalls.

DOTr is also asking establishments near the train stations to allow passengers to use their common areas while commuters wait to get to the station.

Comfort rooms at train stations will be improved, too, and free wi-fi services made available to passengers. Recently, Smart Communications signed an agreement with DOTr to provide free wi-fi services in key transport hubs of the country, including railway stations.

To mitigate security threats, Tugade said more security personnel are to be detailed at train stations. He said if terrorist attacks can happen in more sophisticated countries, it can also happen in the Philippines.

Improving MRT3 capacity

To improve capacity at the Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT 3), Tugade said running trains will be increased to 20 trains with 60 cars from the current 16 trains with 48 cars. Another goal is to improve the train tracks and to increase train speed to 50 kilometers per hour (kph) from 40kph, as well as reduce headway—the interval of time between vehicles in a transit system without a reduction in the speed of vehicles—to 4.5 minutes from 5 minutes.

When these measures are imposed, Tugade said passenger per hour per destination (PPHPD) is expected to go up to 15,760 passengers from the current 14,184 PPHPD.

When the 100 days have passed, Tugade said the agency’s goal for the next six months is to maintain the running trains at 20 with 60 cars and raising train speed to 60kph. The transport department will also improve headway to 3.75 minutes from 4.5 minutes.

Tugade said that to achieve this will require completing the grinding of tracks that the previous administration had started. With these improvements, passenger numbers are seen to increase to 18,912 PPHPD, he said.

For the first year, DOTr aims to eventually increase the cars to 80 and maintain a speed of 60kph but to further reduce headway to 3 minutes. Tugade said this can be done by making each train pull four cars instead of just three, completing the replacement of the signaling system, and upgrading the power supply.

These will then boost passenger count to around 31,000 PPHPD, he said.

For the Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT Line 1), DOTr has already extended operating hours to 10:15 p.m. from 9:30 p.m. to absorb more passengers, reduce queues, and synchronize operations with other rail lines.

The transport department will also look at resolving the delay in the procurement of additional trains and delivering the right-of-way to address delays in the rail line extension projects. – Roumina Pablo

Image courtesy of khunaspix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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