MRT-7 is key to accelerating economy’s recovery post-pandemic

An interconnected and integrated system of people-focused mobility options that caters to all is what the country needs to drive a strong and sustainable economic recovery post-pandemic.

This, according to SMC president and chief executive officer Ramon S. Ang, is the vision behind its current and future infrastructure projects, which he said are all aimed at alleviating traffic and pollution, boosting economic activity, creating jobs and opportunities in the provinces, and improving quality of life within the metropolis.

Ang yesterday led the official unveiling of six brand-new trainsets, or a total of 18 train cars, for its much-anticipated MRT-7 mass transit system project. The rolling stock were presented to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, who graced the occasion.

The train sets comprise the first batch of 36 trainsets or total 108 cars acquired by SMC for the project. They were manufactured by South Korea’s Hyundai Rotem and started arriving in the country towards the end of this year.

Ang thanked Duterte and his government, particularly the Department of Transportation under Sec. Arthur Tugade, local government officials, and all previous government officials and stakeholders of the project, for their support and cooperation to bring MRT-7 closer to completion.

“MRT-7 is a vital cog in our long-term goal to develop an integrated and interconnected transportation system where people from all income levels can get around and beyond the metropolis, quickly and efficiently,” Ang said.

“More than an affordable, reliable, and efficient means to move people, MRT-7 signifies a turning point, in our resolve to promote equity and inclusivity across our cities. It’s a vehicle for opportunities, equity, and better quality of life for Filipinos,” He added.

The project, a 22-km rail and road development starting in North Avenue, Quezon City and ending in the City of San Jose del Monte, Bulacan, is currently at 56.03% completion, with test runs slated to begin in just a year’s time or starting December 2022.

This, following delays in rights-of-way acquisition, relocation of utilities, and work limitations caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Without the continued support of our partners in government and the cooperation of motorists and the public, we wouldn’t be where we are today. As with any major infrastructure project, there have been many challenges. But we are all still here, working together to deliver this project that will greatly improve the lives of Filipinos, and help usher a better future for our cities and provinces,” Ang said.

Ang also shared his “bigger picture” context for the project, saying that MRT-7 is envisioned to be part what will be become the country’s future infrastructure network, which will include interconnected railways and expressways that will address social, environmental and economic issues experienced by Filipinos, due to inadequate infrastructure and urban planning.

The MRT-7 is set to connect to the existing LRT-1 and MRT-3, improving accessibility throughout Metro Manila and the nearby growth corridor of Bulacan.

San Miguel is also investing P740 billion to build the country’s largest, most modern international gateway in Bulacan, the New Manila International Airport, as well as a separate futuristic green city, designed by leading green architect and urban planner Felino Palafox Jr. and his firm, Palafox and Associates.

The new airport and airport city will be part of the massive infrastructure network, making it easily accessible from Metro Manila via rail and expressway, Ang said.

As part of its environmental and sustainability initiatives, SMC is also currently undertaking, in coordination with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) a P1-billion clean-up of the 27-kilometer Tullahan-Tinajeros River system, and a P2-billion cleanup of the Pasig River.

“With better-designed, interconnected, environment-friendly infrastructure, we can address so many issues confronting Filipinos on a daily basis–primarily, traffic, which causes economic losses, brings down productivity, and steals time away from people,” Ang said.

“There’s also pollution–the high concentration of vehicles stuck on narrow public roads for hours exposes all of us to harmful emissions. Pollution has also extended to our rivers. Because of limited space in our cities, more wastes are being dumped into rivers, which then exacerbates flooding and destroys marine resources. There’s also lack of opportunity because development tends to be concentrated in just a few areas,” he added.

The MRT-7 project will have 14 stations, namely: Quezon North Avenue Joint Station; Quezon Memorial Circle; University Avenue; Tandang Sora; Don Antonio; Batasan; Manggahan; Dona Carmen; Regalado; Mindanao Avenue; Quirino; Sacred Heart; Tala; and San Jose del Monte. It can accommodate 300,000 passengers during its first year of operations and to 850,000 passengers daily on its 12th year.

The MRT 7 Project is an integrated transit system undertaken and fully-funded by San Miguel Corporation, under a Build-Gradual Transfer-Operate, Maintain and Manage (BGTOM) scheme under the BOT Law.

The Project Agreement was signed on 18 June 2008 between the Department of Transportation and its private sector partner, Universal LRT Corporation (BVI) Limited, which was partially acquired by San Miguel in 2010. Full ownership took place in 2016. Construction of the MRT 7 by San Miguel commenced in August of that same year.