By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter

THE LIGHT Rail Administrator Transit Authority (LRTA) on Wednesday said it does not have enough funds yet for a project that seeks to build three more passenger stations.

The agency had received only P2 billion from the Transportation department for the LRT Line 2 west extension project, which is expected to ease traffic congestion in the capital region, LRTA Administrator Hernando T. Cabrera told a televised news briefing.

“We are still lacking in budget because the project would need P9 billion,” he said.

Mr. Cabrera said they have finished engineering plans and other preparations for the extension project. The LRTA is working to get more funds from the Budget department, he added.

He said the agency might also get a multi-year contracting authority this year so it can start the bidding for the project.

The west extension project seeks to extend the rail by 3.02 kilometers to the west of the Recto Station in Manila, the capital.

Meanwhile, Mr. Cabrera said LRT-2 would offer free rides to students from Aug. 22 to Nov. 5.

The Transportation department in June said it was addressing the lack of transport capacity in Metro Manila.

The previous government spent millions to offer free rides, which transport group Move as One Coalition said was a quick-fix solution to traffic congestion.

It had yet to announce a new plan to address a potential increase in transport demand as classes resume this month.

Policymakers have revived talks about the traffic congestion as more schools and offices resume face-to-face operations.

Senator Robinhood “Robin” Padilla on Tuesday proposed the use cable cars to solve Metro Manila’s traffic problem.

“I would like to suggest it as it will be suitable for the Philippines, especially in Metro Manila, because of traffic,” he told senators at a Tuesday plenary session.

The neophyte lawmaker also said that the country’s geographical setting demands trains.

Elementary and high schools will start five days of physical classes starting November, while more universities will conduct face-to-face classes this month.

The Department of Education (DepEd) said more than 18.6 million students in basic education have registered for the new school year.

This is about two-thirds of the agency’s target of 28.6 million enrollees, DepEd spokesman Michael T. Poa told a separate news briefing.

He urged parents to enroll their children as early as possible so the agency could enforce appropriate strategies against the coronavirus, monkeypox and dengue, as well as on earthquake preparedness.

Enrollment will run until Aug. 22.

The government has increased vaccination efforts as the Education department plans to hold five-day of face-to-face classes starting November. 

The Department of Health (DoH) has revived its push to expand the meaning of “fully vaccinated” to include at least one booster shot, officer-in-charge Maria Rosario S. Vergeire told the ABS-CBN News Channel.

“We are now again proposing to the Office of the President that our fully vaccinated definition be refined, that we will now include the first booster shot,” she said.

More Filipinos have become complacent about vaccination and have not availed themselves of free boosters, she said, citing a DoH survey.

Ms. Vergeire said a number of Filipinos have not availed themselves of booster shots because these are not required by offices and schools.

The Marcos government targets to give out COVID-19 booster shots to 23 million people in its first 100 days.

About 71.9 million Filipinos had been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus as of Monday, 16.6 million of them having received their first booster, while 1.5 million got a second booster, DoH data showed.

The Philippines on Tuesday recorded 924 more cases of highly contagious Omicron subvariants.

The Philippines is also facing threats from monkeypox, which compelled the World Health Organization to declare a global emergency in June.

The Philippines may get access to monkeypox vaccines by 2023, Ms. Vergeire said.

She said the DoH was coordinating with the private sector in buying vaccines against the disease.

DoH was exploring other ways to get monkeypox vaccines that will be first injected to health workers.

The Philippines confirmed its first monkeypox patient, who has recovered, on July 29.

More than 16,000 monkeypox cases have been recorded in 75 countries, the World Health Organization said.

Ms. Vergeire said majority of the cases worldwide spread via sexual contact. She said the virus could also spread by touching objects used by an infected person. “We want to tell our countrymen that anyone can be infected with monkeypox.”