THE Department of Transportation (DoTr) said Monday that the lowering of the tunnel boring machine to start actual construction of the Japan-funded Metro Manila Subway project will take place in June, before President Rodrigo R. Duterte steps down.

“In the first or second week of June, the Transportation department will perform an activity to convince the people of the Philippines that the subway is real… Ibababa na natin ‘yung (we will lower the) tunnel boring machine,” Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade said during the Duterte Legacy Summit.

“Once we put down the tunnel boring machine, the actual construction will start. In the first or second week of June, we will do a simulation on what to do with the subway,” he added.

The Transportation department signed on May 5 a contract with Tokyu Construction Co., Ltd, Tobishima Corp. and Megawide Construction Corp. (Tokyu-Tobishima-Megawide Joint Venture) for the construction of two underground stations and tunneling works of the Metro Manila Subway Project Phase 1.

According to the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines, the Japan International Cooperation Agency has provided assistance amounting to 104 billion yen in the first tranche and 253 billion yen in the second tranche for the construction of the first phase of the subway project.

“After the Duterte administration, tuloy po ba ang subway? (Will the subway go ahead?) Yes, tuloy na tuloy (yes it will)… The funds are in place, most of the contracts involved have been awarded and in fact have already started, at ‘yung right of way, nasimulan na (work on acquiring the right of way has started),” Mr. Tugade said.

Sana lang pabaunan niyo ng dasal at tulong ang mga darating na administrasyon upang matuloy na itong proyekto na ito (I hope you welcome the new administration with prayers and cooperation so this project goes through),” he added.

Once fully operational, the 17-station subway project will cut travel time between Quezon City and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport to 35 minutes from one hour and 10 minutes currently. It is expected to serve 370,000 passengers per day.

Transportation Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John R. Batan said at a forum in April that the Metro Manila Subway involves 13 contracts, six of which have been awarded. This includes a P26.75-billion contract to supply 240 train cars that was awarded to the joint venture of Japan Transport Engineering Co. and Sumitomo Corp.

The government initially planned to launch partial operations this year and full operations in 2025, but Mr. Tugade has said this is no longer possible due to the limitations imposed by the pandemic.

Partial operation of the subway is now expected in 2025, while full operation is eyed by 2027.

Two out of 25 tunnel boring machines from Japan that will be used for the project arrived in Manila in February.

The project was first proposed and planned in 1973 as part of the Urban Transportation Study in the Manila Metropolitan Area, according to the DoTr. — Arjay L.Balinbin