The Transportation department said Friday that 25 tunnel-boring machines from Japan will be deployed to accelerate construction of the country’s first subway.

“To accelerate the construction of the Metro Manila Subway Project and to minimize road interference during construction, we will be using not just one but a fleet of 25 Japanese-made tunnel boring machines or TBMs,” Transportation Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John R. Batan said in a statement.

The department unveiled on Friday the 74-ton cutter head of the project’s first tunnel boring machine.

“On the following days of February 2021, the remaining parts of the machine will arrive and will be transported at the site for assembly,” the department said. “This will be followed by the conduct of a mandatory operational test prior to the lowering and main drive underground that is expected to be done in the third quarter of this year.”

The cutter head is positioned in the forward section of the TBM and rotates to break, cut and grind rocks and soil.

Six TBMs will be fielded in the first three sections of the subway, which are targeted for partial operations by the end of the year.

Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade said he will continue to press the government’s private partners to finish the portion of the subway due to open for partial operations by December.

“I know that I have pressured you, and I have pressured you so hard in order to have this project. But as I thank you, I assure you, I will pressure and push you harder so that we will achieve the partial operability of the project at least in my target, December of this year; at worst, in the target of the contractors, February of next year,” he said.

The Metro Manila Subway will have 17 stations: East Valenzuela, Quirino Highway, Tandang Sora, North Avenue, Quezon Avenue, East Avenue, Anonas, Katipunan, Ortigas, Shaw, Kalayaan Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Lawton, Senate, FTI, NAIA Terminal 3, and Bicutan.

“It will further stretch across North and South zones of the Greater Capital Region,” the department said.

The government broke ground on the first three stations in February 2019 after the Transportation department signed a P51-billion deal with the Shimizu joint venture, which consists of Shimizu Corp., Fujita Corp., Takenaka Civil Engineering Co. Ltd., and EEI Corp.

The Philippines and Japan signed in March 2018 the first tranche of the P355.6-billion loan for the project. — Arjay L. Balinbin