Japanese contractors broke ground on Wednesday on Metro Manila’s first ever subway – accompanied by warnings that the Philippine government’s deadline for completion by 2022 was wildly optimistic.
The $6.9bn subway is part of President Duterte’s "Build, build, build" infrastructure programme, a plan to spend over $150bn on road, rail and air schemes, with Japan and China leading the funding and construction effort.
Duterte set a target of 2022 – his last year in office – to complete the 36km, 18-station line, which is being entirely funded by Japan.
Building the metro are Japan’s Shimizu, Fujita and Takenaka, and Philippine firm EEI.
The Nikkei Asian Review reported that Philippine Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said at the groundbreaking ceremony that he expected the first phase to be completed by 2022.
However the Japanese firms told the paper that it would be "tough to finish even the first three stations in three years". The earliest finish date, they said, would be in 2024.
The underground train will cross Metro Manila’s northern portion in Quezon City with terminals at the southern business district of Taguig City and Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
At present the capital’s 12 million population have only four train lines covering 70km, leading to continual traffic jams.
Congestion is thought to cost the city about $70m a day, a cost that is expected to rise to more than $100m by 2035 if mass transit systems are not put in place.
Image: Manila loses $70m a day as a result of constant congestion (Dreamstime)