THE GOVERNMENT has obtained access to more than $6 million in loans to fund feasibility studies for three railway projects outside the capital region, the Transportation department said on Monday.

The three proposed projects are the planned Panay Railway, the Bataan Railway, and the North Long Haul Interregional Railway, which will connect provinces to the north of Metro Manila, Transportation Secretary Jaime J. Bautista said.

“The technical studies for these railway projects will commence in the next few months,” he said during a ceremony to launch operations for the Metro Manila Subway Project (MMSP) tunnel boring machine in Valenzuela City.

Mr. Bautista said the government is also “on track” to secure funds for the feasibility studies for the San Mateo Railway Project, Northern Mindanao Railway Project, as well as the Philippine transport system master plan.

Mr. Bautista said the start of tunneling in Valenzuela City “signifies the point of no return” in the construction of the subway. “We are going full speed ahead to complete the country’s first subway.”

The subway project will cut across eight cities that between Valenzuela City and Parañaque City, with a spur line connecting to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

With a 33-kilometer route length and 17 stations, the subway targets travel time between Quezon City and NAIA in Pasay City to 35 minutes from over an hour. It is expected to accommodate up to 370,000 passengers daily.

“Many of big-ticket infrastructure projects require a lot of time to complete,” Mr. Bautista said. “We ask for patience and understanding as we pursue permanent solutions to our transportation problems.”

MMSP’s Contract Package 101 (CP101) is part of the project’s seven civil works contracts, the Department of Transportation (DoTr) said in a statement. It involves the construction of three underground stations in Quezon City and an additional semi-underground station in the northern Valenzuela City, where the depot is located.

The agency said six tunnel boring machines will be deployed for CP101.

“Around 1,200,000 cubic meters of soil using cut-cover and the TBMs are to be excavated for the partial operability (PO) section of the project or the equivalent of 500 Olympic-size swimming pools,” the DoTr said. “For the tunnels alone, the excavation will be around 711,000 cubic meters or an equivalent of 285 Olympic size swimming pools.”

“The entire alignment will have a total excavated soil of about 7,419,940 cubic meters or the equivalent of 2,500 Olympic size swimming pools,” it added.

The P488-billion subway project is supported by loans from the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. said he believes the Japanese government will “help us shape our railway infrastructure and keep them at par with the highest international standards,” noting that the tunnel boring machine shows “Japan’s expertise in technology and trailblazing contributions in the modern world.”

“The launching of this tunnel boring machine became a testament to this administration’s commitment to continue the projects of the previous administration and more importantly build better more,” he said at Monday’s event.

“We will continue to invest and improve on our transportation system as well as pursue more projects in the years to come so that Filipinos can gain greater access to places of work, commerce, recreation and other vital areas,” he added.

The contract package is expected to be finished by the end of 2027.

Mr. Marcos asked for more patience as “big-ticket projects such as this take years to be completed.”

“So, I ask not only for your continued patience but also for your continued trust and support for the government.” — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza