THE Department of Transportation (DoTr) said Thursday it will proceed with the implementation of the first phase of the Metro Manila Subway Project, and expects no disruption to the timetable in the form of delayed deliveries from Japanese suppliers due to the coronavirus outbreak in Japan.

Parts of the line are scheduled for operations next year, relying mostly on Japanese contractors for building supplies and train equipment.

In a statement, the DoTr said Secretary Arthur P. Tugade met with Economic Minister Masahiro Nakata of the Japanese embassy, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Senior Representative Kiyo Kawabuchi, Shimizu Corp. representative Monichiro Tsuchiya and EEI Corp. President and CEO Roberto Jose L. Castillo.

The DoTr said they tackled the progress made in bringing the Japanese-supplied tunnel boring machines into operation, after they arrived disassembled last month.

“In the meeting, Secretary Tugade reiterated the DoTr’s desire to deliver the Metro Manila Subway Project by 2021, as committed, despite the coronavirus outbreak in Japan,” the department said.

“We will not stop because of the coronavirus — we will not stop working,” Mr. Tugade was quoted as saying.

The first phase of the project will be built by Japanese consortium Shimizu Joint Venture (consisting of Shimizu Corp., Fujita Corp., Takenaka Civil Engineering Co., Ltd. and EEI Corp.), which the DoTr signed a P51-billion contract with in February last year. The contract also includes the construction of the subway’s depot and the Philippine Railways Institute.

The DoTr said that the completion deadline for the assembly of the tunnel boring machines, which were delivered disassembled last month, has been moved from July to June on Mr. Tugade’s orders.

A tunnel boring machine automates the digging process by reinforcing the tunnel as it digs, reducing the need for a separate operation to shore up the tunnel wall to prevent the works from collapsing.

Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John R. Batan has said that the target was to begin tunneling works within the year.

The government broke ground on the first three stations (Quirino Highway, Tandang Sora and North Avenue) of the subway project in February last year.

The Philippines and Japan signed in March 2018 the first tranche of the P355.6-billion loan for the Metro Manila subway project.

Full operations on the 36-kilometer line are scheduled for 2025. — Arjay L. Balinbin