Monday, December 31, 2012

Plane Crash in the Philippines Changes Government Leadership

By Jelly Musico

A plane crash that killed Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo last August 18 has led to a change of leadership at the Dept. of Transportation and Communication (DOTC).

But this hardly affected the reforms implemented by former DOTC chief Mar Roxas for year 2012.

New Secretary Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya lived up to his promise to continue the plans and programs that Roxas started in the DOTC to assure efficient, safe and convenient transportation throughout the country.

Before replacing Robredo in the DILG, Roxas launched major infrastructure projects in the DOTC in line with the 'Tuwid na Daan' (straight path) slogan of President Benigno Aquino III.

Topping the list of the major infra projects the DOTC bidded out was the much-awaited P60-billion Light Rail Transit Line 1 Extension to Cavite.

Once the Cavite extension is completed, the LRT Line 1 will increase the train's span from 20.7 kms to 32.4 kms, with approximately 10.5 kms of the extension elevated and 1.2 kms at grade.

Another P30 billion will be used to acquire up to 39 new light rail vehicles to avoid the need for raising fares.

Every day, more than 500,000 commuters use the existing Line 1 from Baclaran in Pasay City to Roosevelt in Quezon City.

The southern part of Metro Manila and neighboring Cavite province are home to nearly four million people.

Four companies have passed pre-qualification bidding.

These are DMCI Holdings Inc, Light Rail Manila Consortium, MTD-Samsung Consortium and San Miguel Infrastructure Resources Inc.

Abaya said the DOTC will announce the winning bidder by April next year.

Aside from the 39 new LRT Line 1 vehicles, the DOTC will also acquire additional 26 MRT 3 trains as part of the MRT to improve its services in line with the pending fare increase next year.

The DOTC also expects to bid out in the first quarter of next year another project extending the P9.76 billion LRT Line 2 Extension to Antipolo, according to Abaya.

The LRT 2 Extension Project involves adding 4.2 kms to the railway from the existing Santolan station at Marcos Highway, Pasig City, all the way to the intersection of Marcos Highway and Sumulong Highway at Masinag, Cainta.

The project, which will serve an additional 130,000 passengers from the current 240,000, is scheduled for completion before the end of President Benigno Aquino III's term in 2016.

The existing LRT 2 is a 13.8-km mass transit line that cuts across five cities in Metro Manila, namely Pasig, Marikina, Quezon City, San Juan and Manila, and passes the major thoroughfares of Marcos Highway, Aurora Boulevard, Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard, Legarda Street and Recto Avenue.

To reduce deaths due to road accidents involving motorcycles, the Land Transportation Office, in partnership with the Dept, of Trade and Industry, has finalized the implementation rules and guidelines of the Helmet Law.

Motorcycle riders have until December 31 to get their helmets validated with the proper sticker from the DTI.

In line with Aquino administration's effort to improve air transportation and to increase tourist arrivals, the DOTC has also bid out rehabilitation and construction of seven airports worth P303 million including one in San Vicente near the world famous Puerto Princesa Underground River.

The DOTC will also spend P341 million to construct and rehabilitate more than a thousand toilets in airports, seaports and train stations.

A total 111 toilets will be built in facilities managed by the Manila International Airport Authority; 63 in MRT3 stations; 63 in LRT stations; 54 in Land Transportation Office units; and 36 in Philippine National Railways stations – all in the National Capital Region.

Recently, the DOTC and DTI approved the Air Passenger Bill of Rights after series of public consultations with all stakeholders including airline companies.

The Air Passenger Bill of Rights aims to protect travelers from what are perceived to be abusive practices by local and foreign airlines.

It provides guidelines on several airline practices, including overbooking, rebooking, ticket refunds, cancelled and delayed flights, lost luggage and misleading advertisements on fares.

The untimely death of Robredo has prompted Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines to clean its house after some CAAP officers have been suspended for supposed conniving with Robredo's plane pilot Capt. Jessup Bahinting for issuance of a certificate of airworthiness without proper tests.

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