BY ROGER M. BALANZA
Within the decade, Davao City, Mindanao’s premier city, would be the envy of every Philippine city: Barring hitches, Davao City will be the second metropolis to have a Light Railway Transit (LRT).
An LRT is among big-ticket projects in the wish list of city planners.
A South Korean company has started the wheels rolling for the multi-million dollar project with a study to start in September and completed early next year.
On Monday, June 16, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Korea Engineering and Construction (KEC) for the conduct of a feasibility study on the railway project, which will be at no cost to the local government.
Among proposed concept by KEG is a 13.6km LRT system knifing through the city’s main roads.
Chae Kwon II, KEG chief researcher of the KEC, laid down the feasibility study in a Power Point presentation during the signing of the MOU.
Kwon said the feasibility study would eat up about US$1 million, part of it to be shouldered by the South Korean government.
The LRT is the answer to the city’s chaotic transport system that snakes through a constricted road network jammed by an overpopulation of private vehicles, buses. taxis, passenger jeepneys, motorcycles and motorcycle taxis (habalhabal) and pedal-powered passenger tricycles.
Duterte said the city’s traffic woes would further worsen with the city’s economic boom and fast-rising population.
At the MOU signing KEC overseas manager Dae Kwon Jung, showed that Davao City has an annual population growth of 2.7%, while the vehicle volume growth rate in the Davao Region is pegged at 7.1%.
If no cure is found for its traffic woes, the outdated transport system and road network of Davao City, as the center of commerce and trade of the Davao Region, was expected to absorb the brunt of the rise in vehicle population of the region.
Racing to the future with a grim scenario, Jung said that without a sound transport system, year 2040 would be a nightmare for city residents when the population would have reached 40 million.
“Right now, we have narrow roads that we can’t expand because we can’t buy the expensive lands (to expand the highway); our only option is to have railways,” Duterte told the KEG officers.
The South Korean company has done transport system projects in South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia. The Davao City LRT project would be its first in the Philippines.
In his Power Point presentation, Jung proposed four mass transit options.
He placed premium on the 13.6km LRT system from Roxas Avenue starting at the Ateneo de Davao University, passing Abreeza Mall in Bajada, SM Mall in Lanang then Mamay Road and the Davao International Airport in Buhangin.
From 5,000 to 20,000 thousand passengers could be transported every hour by the monorail-type LRT running at 70kms per hour, said Jung.
Japan to fund underground railway
Davao City’s poor transport system is apparently not lost to foreign governments and lending agencies including multinational engineering firms which offered to help solve the transport woes.
Among them are the Japanese and South Korean governments, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank (WB).
A South Korean company— KEG Engineering — has inked a pact with the Davao City government to conduct a feasibility study on a transport system to begin in September.
But the Japanese are not to be left behind.
Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said in March this year that the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) — the Japanese government’s lending arm — has offered to fund under a long-term soft loan agreement construction of a public transit tunnel.
Duterte said the tunnel would run parallel to the South Diversion Road ( C. P. Garcia Highway), which snakes through part of the city’s southern district that has become a fast developing zone for industries and housing.
Subway, coastal road in city’s ‘dream projects’
Ambitious dream projects aiming to further enhance the economic atmosphere are among 22 projects in the ‘wish list’ of Davao City’s Private-Public Partnership (PPP) program.
Among the big ticket projects are the underground railway or subway system, coastal road from Lanang to Toril and an Export Processing Zone (EPZ).
The projects were identified during a ‘brainstorming’ session attended by stakeholders held in January this year.
Attending the session were representatives from Davao City Investment Promotions Center (DCIPC), City Planning and Development Office (CPDO), Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industries Inc. (DCCCII), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Board of Investments (BOI), National Economic Development Authority (Neda), City Engineer’s Office (CEO), and Davao City Council Committee on Transportation.