The Urban Roamer has held on writing this piece out of respect for the recent passing of former Philippine president Benigno Aquino III last June 24 and in anticipation of the opening (finally) of the Manila mass transit Line 2 East Extension last July 1. But this has brought about some warped sense of nostalgia and false memories, thanking the Aquino administration for making the project a reality.
To which I say…HELL NO!
Such expression of gratitude is whitewashing the fact how much BS Aquino and his Transportation secretary Joseph Emilio (P)Abaya has bungled, bamboozled, and wasted precious time and money in doing this East Extension.
To understand the nature of this rant, the Urban Roamer needs to share a little bit of history first.
Line 2 was initially begun in 1996 and fully completed by 2004. The project came in four packages which began in different periods:
- Package 1 – construction of the depot and its facilities by Sumitomo
- Packages 2 and 3 – construction of the line structure (from the posts to the viaducts) AND the stations by a Hanjin and Itochu joint venture
- Package 4 – installation of the communication, tracks, fare systems, as well as supplying the trains by the Asia-Europe MRT Consortium which was composed of Marubeni Corporation, Balfour Beatty, Toshiba, Daewoo Heavy Industries, and D.M. Consuji Incorporated (DMCI)
Take note of the nature of these packages because this will come into play later in the story.
The original Line 2 ran from Santolan in Pasig to Recto Avenue between Rizal Avenue and Quezon Boulevard in Manila but there were plans even during the construction period for it to be extended in both directions. The 4 km east extension would go up to the area of Masinag in Antipolo, Rizal while the 3 km west extension would go down towards the Manila North Harbor.
The east extension would be the first to be approved by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA). However, that approval happened in 2012, 13 years from when it was proposed and 8 years since the original Line 2 was completed. The fact that it took so long to approve only a 4 km mass transit line (and just an extension at that) made the delay unacceptable, though some may argue that the 2008 financial crisis, Ondoy in 2009, and the transition of power in 2010 factored in that delay.
Here is where things get worse though. The Department of Transportation and Communications (Before the Communications part of that department was transferred over to the Department of Information and Communications Technology) under its then-secretary Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya (who I prefer calling as (P)Abaya) had this “brilliant” idea of dividing the east extension project into packages to make things more “efficient.” As noted earlier, the original Line 2 project was divided into phases as well. However, (P)Abaya decided to set the packages in the following manner:
- Package 1 – construction of the viaduct by DMCI.
- Package 2 – design and construction of the two stations (Emerald-Marikina and Masinag-Antipolo*) by DMCI
- Package 3 – installation of the electro-mechanical system of the railway by Marubeni and DMCI
Right there, you can see the flaws in (P)Abaya’s “brilliant” plan. Firstly, why separate the construction of the viaduct from that of the stations, when both involve basically the same type of work? This was not the case with the original Line 2 project with both aspects done almost simultaneously. And considering the extension was just 4 km long and that DMCI ended up doing almost all the aspects of the project, there’s an argument to be made it would have been better if the project was not divided into packages in the first place. Then again, considering the different nature of the electro-mechanical works from the other aspects of the project, perhaps there is logic behind separating them. It’s up for debate.
What made things worse is the delay of the work between each package for Line 2 East Extension, which is more apparent in an extension as short as this one. Package 1 began in 2015 up to 2017. But delays in the awarding of Package 2 stalled the project until it was awarded and work began in 2017 up to around 2019. Package 3 work only began in 2019. At the very least, that was 2 years wasted because of this “chopped” approach, which prolonged the agony of the anticipating commuting public.
It also didn’t help that the COVID-19 pandemic stalled the work on the project. In fact, at this time of writing, Package 3 of the project is not yet fully completed. But even if the pandemic didn’t happen, so much time, and perhaps money, was wasted because of these delays that would have been more bearable if (P)Abaya thought this through.
Unfortunately, (P)Abaya received little pushback for the inanity of his decision, thanks in part to him being close to the president at that time, BSC Aquino III. Aquino, who had little patience for PAGASA for inaccurate weather predictions that he had its director sacked, found nothing wrong with the illogical decision of (P)Abaya on how the Line 2 East Extension project would be conducted.
For the unnecessary delays in the first place and the flawed decisions behind them, thanks but no thanks, BSC Aquino III and (P)Abaya for the Line 2 East Extension. We do not deserve to suffer this indignity being done to our mass transportation system by your “brilliant” decisions.
That being said, the Urban Roamer has more “spicy” things to say about the current state of things at Line 2 in a follow-up piece. Spoilers, the Light Rail Transit Authority, the ones running Line 2, may not like what this roamer has to say.
*P.S. For the record, I still do not understand why Masinag station had to be renamed to Antipolo, considering how big Antipolo is and is not just confined to the area around Masinag, but also taking into account possible further extension of the line which will go deep into Antipolo. IMO, it should retained the Masinag name. Meanwhile, I am admittedly indifferent to the renaming of Emerald to Marikina station, as the area itself is an intersection of jurisdictions between Marikina, Pasig, and Cainta and trying think of a better name is difficult to come up with
Acknowledgements as well to the Light Rail Transit Authority, Department of Transportation, Sunstar, and Wikipedia