By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter

THE Metro Manila subway will now have 17 stations, after the Transportation department decided to expand the original plan to include more stations.

Transportation Assistant Secretary Goddes Hope O. Libiran told BusinessWorld the new stations will be located in East Valenzuela, Lawton, Senate, Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 and Bicutan.

She said the Lawton and Senate stations have replaced the Cayetano Boulevard station, located in Taguig, in the initial plan. The new Senate complex, located in Fort Bonifacio, is expected to be completed by July 2021.

The East Valenzuela station will be located at the subway’s depot site in Barangay Ugong, Valenzuela, Ms. Libiran said.

Bicutan will be the location of a “common station” for both the Metro Manila Subway and the proposed Philippine National Railways Calamba line under the North-South Commuter Railway, she said.

The subway project’s existing stations include Quirino Highway, Tandang Sora, North Avenue, Quezon Avenue, East Avenue, Anonas, Katipunan, Ortigas (previously called Ortigas North), Shaw (previously called Ortigas South), Kalayaan Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, and FTI.

Asked if the added stations will need the approval of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Ms. Libiran said: “We’re going back to NEDA after the JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) Design Team finishes the updated designs and cost.”

Ms. Libiran said the NAIA Terminal 3 station will no longer require the go signal from the NEDA because when its board approved the subway project in September 2017, “one of the conditions was to include an airport station.”

The Metro Manila subway is one of the administration’s flagship projects funded by official development assistance (ODA) from Japan.

As the coronavirus pandemic disrupted all economic activity, the government extended the deadline for submission of bids for the contracts to provide train sets, electrical and mechanical (E&M) systems and track works that are part of the subway project’s phase 1.

The first phase also covers the first three underground stations, tunnels and depot construction, depot equipment and buildings.

According to a general bid bulletin from the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM-PS) posted on the Transportation department’s website, the bids submission deadline for the rolling stock package has been extended to June 30 from March 17.

Bids for the train sets should be submitted along with a ¥600-million bid security at the DBM-PS office in Manila.

For the E&M systems and track works, the new deadline for submission of bids, along with an ¥800-million bid security, has been moved to July 17 from March 24.

In January, Transportation Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John R. Batan said the contracts will be awarded to the winning bidders “by the middle of this year.”

The government broke ground for the first three stations in February last year after the Transportation department signed a P51-billion deal with the Shimizu Joint Venture, which consists of Shimizu Corp., Fujita Corp., Takenaka Civil Engineering Company Ltd. and EEI Corp.

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

In February, BusinessWorld reported four Japanese firms, namely: Sumitomo Corp., Mitsubishi Corp., Mitsui & Co. Ltd., and Marubeni Corp., purchased bidding documents for the contract to provide E&M systems and track works.

Two Philippine-based firms — construction giant D.M. Consunji, Inc. and KDDI Philippines Corp. — also bought bidding documents for the E&M systems and track works contract package.

Hitachi Ltd., along with Sumitomo and Mitsubishi, bought bid documents for the design, execution and completion of 30 train sets consisting of eight electric multiple units or a total of 240 train cars.

Sumitomo is one of the maintenance service providers of Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3), along with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Engineering, Ltd. and TES Philippines, Inc.

D.M. Consunji has been involved in various railway projects in the country, which include the Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line 1 North Extension, North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR), and LRT Line 2 East Extension with Marubeni.

Marubeni’s other projects in the country include the improvement and modernization of Commuter Line South Project and the first and second phases of the LRT-1 capacity expansion project.

The contracts for the E&M systems, track works and rolling stock will go through international competitive bidding in accordance with JICA procedures.

Based on the Special Terms for Economic Partnership of Japanese ODA Loans, the primary contractor should be from Japan, while sub-contractors can be from other countries.

The government unveiled in February parts of the Japanese-supplied tunnel boring machines which will be used to build the country’s first subway line.

The Transportation department targets to begin tunneling works within the year.

While the public will have to wait until 2025 for full operations of the 17-station subway, the government targets partial operations — covering the first three stations — by 2022.