Much has been written about the current administration’s Build, Build, Build program including it being billed as a “Golden Age of Infrastructure”. Many infrastructure projects though can be classified as “nice to have but not necessary”. They might become necessary in the future but then there are other projects that are more urgently needed now and need to be prioritised given the limited resources that we have. A good example of these “nice to have” projects would be the bridges proposed to connect Panay, Negros, Cebu and Bohol islands. The reality is that it is quite easy to manipulate studies in order to obtain results to support the construction of these bridges including justifying loans that will bring us deeper into unnecessary (for now) debt. You get more bang for the buck if you build instead mass transit systems and transform transportation in major cities of these same islands to favour active transport rather than be dependent on cars. Cebu, Iloilo, Bacolod and other highly urbanised cities now require better public transportation and people-oriented systems. That’s where money should go and that will have a bigger impact from now to the long-term. The government’s infrastructure build-up is linked to the new tax scheme (TRAIN) but also requires a lot of borrowing from various entities including one country that has been documented to take full advantage (i.e., very disadvantageous to the borrower) of countries taking out loans from them (you know which one – China). Do we really want to get mired in such debt?
We all are in the lookout for opportunities that would probably give us something we will be remembered for. This is not limited to the leaders of our country, whether they be politicians or department heads or even district engineers, who perhaps want to be remembered for something they built, or, something they contributed in making a reality. Perhaps this can be in the form of a mass transit line, an expressway, or an iconic bridge? Perhaps for others it is in the form of a nuclear power plant or even a space program. We all have that dream project we want to be associated with.
Why are certain good people not critical of the government’s disastrous war on drugs or the proliferation of what appears to be government sponsored fake news and propaganda? It’s simple. Many of these “good” people are benefitting from the very same government particularly in pursuit of their own legacies (which are their main agenda). If you were an engineer, planner or scientist in government and your projects were funded one way or another, would you dare bite the proverbial hand that feeds you? “Complicit” seems to be a word used by the more hardline among us in terms of the socio-political-economic situation we are in now. But we have to remember that during the regime of Marcos, this was also the situation. The so-called best and the brightest were all employed by the administration back then including prominent names in industry and the academe, who perhaps enjoyed the privileges, perks and funding support for their programs and projects. Never mind martial law and its outcomes.
That is why history and its understanding is important. So we may learn from it and not relive the wrongs made in the past. We are not good in history or its application. Perhaps we only know how to memorise. And memory has its limits. That is among the costs of our current predicament. We withhold history, and memory, in exchange for what we think would be our legacies. At what cost? At what price? Human rights, freedoms, justice, financial stability, and dignity are just a few we can mention. Perhaps the biggest loss will be our humanity as we have become de-sensitized to the well-being of others.
Our staff were implementing surveys in relation to the proposed railway projects supported by the Government of Japan. They came across this scene showing the DOST’s (through its MIRDC) hybrid electric train.
The hybrid electric train at the PNR Calamba Station. It looks like its being maintained or checked although I’m not sure the crude set-up is appropriate for such undertaking.
The DOST had a much hyped program during the last administration about the development of Philippine-made transport. Among these were the two Automated Guideway Transport (AGT) train sets that were developed by the MIRDC – one with two 60-passenger (seated and standing) cars and a test track in UP Diliman, and another with two 120-passenger cars with test track at the MIRD compound in Bicutan. While both had what were claimed as extensive tests, these were mainly done by DOST/MIRDC personnel with no independent inspections or validations. At one time, I recall that we at UP had discussions with representatives of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries who offered to explore arranging for a technical cooperation project to have a full-scale testing of the AGT’s using their facilities in Japan. We referred them to MIRDC and that didn’t turn out well as the agency (or perhaps under the the instructions of a higher official?) was supposed to have rejected the offer preferring it to be tested locally. That was a major problem because there were no suitable testing facilities or qualified persons or institutions to grant certification for the AGT to be used as public transport.
The last time I checked with folks at DOST and UP, the AGT prototype set-up in Diliman was already being scheduled for dismantling. This probably comes as a welcome development for those who opposed the project from the start. However, there is potential here for continuing research if only funding could be secured and proponents kept open minds and objectivity in the way researches could be done. There was the perception before that the people behind the AGT projects were so engrossed with what they thought were their babies that they blocked critical but objective comments and recommendations about the prototypes and their applications.
As for the hybrid electric train, there is now supposed to be a cooperative project between the MIRDC and PNR. I recall a few months ago that they even had some test runs to show the hybrid train to be running on PNR tracks; even hyping that this could be part of the future of a rehabilitated PNR. Is this true or just PR? Hopefully, the DOST could get the context right, and the DOTr and PNR can support such initiatives for Philippine-made transport. This is especially as the current administration continues to pursue its Build, Build, Build program that has as major features several railway projects.
Tacloban’s Daniel Romualdez Airport terminal’s expansion has been completed and it now has ample space to accommodate passengers. I took the following photos a couple of weeks ago.
There is more space for the two inspection machines but only one was functioning when we were there. Nevertheless, the terminal now has a more spacious check-in lobby.
The check-in frontage remains the same with the same number of counters for each of the carriers. However, there is more space now for queueing so it is not as crowded as before. Shown are the counters for Philippine Airlines (PAL).
Here is the counter for Cebu Pacific (CebPac); again showing the same counter frontage but with more space for queueing.
There is a perceivable wide area now available in the terminal. That’s the TIEZA booth as well as others for quarantine.
Air Asia Philippines’ check-in counters
The pre-departure lounge is basically “divided” among PAL, CebPac and Air Asia. This is the scene of what you would have seen prior to the completion of the expansion.
Now, there is more space so its not as crowded.
There is a play area for kids as well as a room for nursing mothers (i.e., for breastfeeding or changing diapers). A welcome sight are the refurbished toilets.
The old food stands are gone with the exception of Dunkin’ Donuts. There’s a Goldilocks stand but not one with local goods or delicacies like ‘moron’ for souvenirs/pasalubong.
Another look at the passenger lounge area near the gates.
Here is the expansion area with additional seats and spaces for people with (a lot of) carry-on baggage.
I’m sharing yet another article I found interesting and agreeing with.
Thomson, C. (2018) “The Vehicle of the Future has Two Wheels, Handlebars, and is a Bike,” wired.com, https://www.wired.com/story/vehicle-future-bike?mbid=social_fb [Last accessed: 5/14/2018].
With all the hype the hi-tech transport modes are getting, it is as if these are indeed what most people will be riding many, many years from now. Well, walking should still be there and remains as the most basic among mobility options. But then bicycles should also be a major mode, and perhaps with some innovations to boot in both the bike and the infrastructure necessary to promote its use.
The team from the National Center for Transportation Studies of the University of the Philippines presented their recommendations for the traffic scheme in downtown Tacloban City last May 4, 2018 in the city’s Traffic Summit cum City Development Council (CDC) meeting. I am sharing the image showing the proposed traffic circulation and other features for the proposed downtown scheme below:
The scheme calls for a reduction in on-street parking; restricting such to one side of the street only and where applicable. That is, on-street parking is not allowed where there is already off-street parking along establishments, where there are driveways, and within one or two vehicle length from intersection corners. There will also be designated loading/unloading areas for public transport so parking is also prohibited there.
A couple of important features in the scheme are the enhancement of pedestrian facilities, particularly sidewalks, and the introduction of bicycle lanes. These are more clearly shown in the cross-section examples included in the map. Note that for other streets where there are no designated bike lanes indicated, it is assumed that lanes will be shared with motor vehicles. This is an application of the concept of shared right of way or “sharrow” as it is also termed. The scheme is contextualised along the lines of “people-oriented” transport rather than “car-oriented”, and hopefully would lead to a more walkable downtown area and encourage more people to use bicycles. This promotion of active transport should also lead to a healthier city. I will post about the transport plans prepared for the city in future articles here.
I had wanted to post about the Manila-Cavite Expressway (Cavitex) but kept putting it off as I had few photos of the tollway. Formerly known as the Coastal Road, it is now operated by the Metro Pacific group, which also operates the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) and the Subic Freeport Expressway (SFX). Here are photos I took last February this year when we went to Bacoor with our Japanese research lead. Most of the photos show sections towards Cavite (southbound).
The tollways has 3 lanes along each direction.
On one side is the bay where reclamation projects are proposed or currently under way.
Lane markings in an attempt to position vehicles towards the toll plaza, which is visible from afar in the photo
Vehicles queuing at the toll plaza – it can get very congested here during the peak periods and seasons.
Cavitex toll plaza
There is basically one toll plaza for the tollway for either direction.
Free-flowing traffic during an off-peak period
Approaching the interchange where vehicles bound for Bacoor, Imus and Las Pinas take the right side of the road to exit via the trumpet ramp shown ahead at right. Other vehicles bound for Kawit and Cavite City go straight.
Climbing the ramp to exit towards Bacoor, Cavite
Off-ramp to Bacoor, Imus and Las Pinas
Where expressway meets the national highway
Overpass towards the tollway
Toll plaza for the northbound (to Manila) direction
One of the most aesthetically pleasing modern railway stations I’ve seen is the Den Haag (The Hague) Central Station. The columns and roof structure alone provide travellers with a feeling of space while also having the functionality required for a central station. Contrast this to the old station feel of Amsterdam Central Station (plus the crowds) and somehow I would rather have the conditions at Den Haag. Of course, I have been to much crowded stations than Amsterdam as I lived in Tokyo and Yokohama for 3 years.
Arriving on the platform at Den Haag Central Station
Looking back towards the end of the platform
To the turnstiles!
Tram stop just outside the station
You can easily get on a tram upon exiting the station. Above is another train line, which crosses the station and its platforms.