THE Metro Manila Subway Project (MMSP), which is dubbed as the “Project of the Century”, is still alive despite present challenges and the global crisis brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This was the message conveyed by Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur P. Tugade, as the DOTr, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and the MMSP Japanese partners, unveiled the first of the six Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) to be used for the construction of the country’s first underground railway system.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, an on-site Virtual Tour and Factory Acceptance Test event was held Friday , September 4, 2020, wherein transport officials, members of the media, and the public were taken through the production plant in Japan, where the TBMs are being manufactured and assembled.
“Perhaps, because of what has happened, because of the pandemic created by COVID-19, many people might have thought that the Subway Project is gone. Today, they are in for a big surprise. Because in the quietness, in the attitude of working quietly, notwithstanding the pandemic, lo and behold! They are now surprised to see that the Subway is not forgotten,” Tugade said in his speech.
“Today, I tell you, I am happy to see and witness the virtual aceptance of the tunnel boring machine. I will be happier when it finally arrives in January and February of next year. And I will be happiest when it will actually operate, and we’ll have the partial operability of the first underground railway, the Metro Manila Subway, before the end of President Duterte’s term,” Tugade added.
In his message, DOTr Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John Batan noted that plans for the first subway in Metro Manila was conceived in a study way back in September 1973. However, other neighboring Asian countries were the ones who were able to build the dream project, with the Philippines trailing behind.
“After nearly half a century and six (6) administrations from the 1973 Japan OTCA (Overseas Technical Cooperation Agency) study, under the strong-willed leadership of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Secretary Arthur P. Tugade, it is now the Philippines’ turn to finally build our first-ever subway,” Usec. Batan said.
Six Earth Pressure Balance TBMs will be used to tunnel and connect the partial operability section of the subway (Valenzuela-North Avenue), while fourteen (14) TBMs are set to be used for the remaining section of the railway project. The first two completed TBMs are scheduled to be delivered in the Philippines by the end of January 2021, and will be followed shortly in February 2021.
The gigantic TBMs are designed to dig underground and lay the tunnels that will connect the subway’s 17 stations. Each TBM has an outer diameter of 6.99 meters, with a total length of 95.0 meters (including back up cars), and weigh approximately 700 tons each.
Each TBM to be used in the project can excavate 300 to 600 cubic meters of soil daily and create a tunnel of about 12 to 30 meters in length per day using rotating cutting wheels that can easily break up hard soil and rocks. Additionally, with the TBM’s sheer size and power, it is expected to result in a faster tunneling and project completion, while at the same time, significantly reducing disruption above ground during construction.
Meanwhile, development partners such as JICA and the Embassy of Japan have also expressed their full support and trust to the Philippine government through the relentless efforts of the DOTr, under the leadership of Secretary Tugade, in delivering much-needed infrastructure projects in the country.
“What we have witnessed today proves that the realization of the Metro Manila Subway Project is indeed gaining momentum, and it is only a matter of time before Filipinos can experience a high-capacity railway system similar to what we have in Japan,” JICA Chief Representative Eigo Azukizawa said.
“I can clearly recall a day in February last year. I was in this JIMT factory to join Secretary Tugade’s site inspection. Even though it was in the middle of winter in Japan and cold wind froze us to the bone, he checked the product lines carefully while wearing his ultra thick jacket. I admired his hands-on leadership and eye for detail. His great passion to deliver a more convenient commuting experience to Filipinos is as clear as the summer in the middle of winter,” Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Koji Haneda recalled.
During the virtual tour, the TBM’s manufacturer, JIM Technology, gave a live operational demonstration of the first completed and powered-up main body of the TBM and its cutter head with a rotating cutter disc.
In their messages, representatives of JIM Technology Corporation and the General Contractor of the subways’s partial operability section, Shimizu-Fujita-Takenaka-EEI Joint Venture, have likewise expressed their full commitment for the realization and delivery of the country’s first underground railway system.