The Department of Transportation (DOTr) on Saturday began clearing a site for the partial operability section of the Metro Manila Subway, even as officials distributed checks to land-owners affected by the railway project.
In a statement, the DOTr said the site clearing work made the country its first-ever subway or underground railway system a reality.
The partial operability section of the subway included the first stations in Valenzuela City and Quezon City, the line's depot in Valenzuela City, and buildings for the Philippine Railway Institute (PRI), the country's first-ever railway training center.
A ceremony to formalize the start of the subway's construction was held at the depot site in Barangay Ugong in Valenzuela City.
The depot site would also be where the subway's East Valenzuela Station would be located.
Dubbed as the “Project of the Century,” the underground rail line was expected to serve 370,000 passengers daily in its first year of full operations, and was targeted to be partially operable by 2021.
Once completed and fully operational, the Metro Manila Subway Project would have a total of 15 stations, including a terminal station at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3.
Part of the ceremony was the distribution of checks and the signing of deeds of absolute sale with project-affected landowners, as well as a testimonial video presentation of project-affected informal settler families who had been relocated to Valenzuela’s Disiplina Village, the DOTr noted.
The formal start of clearing operations at the subway's Valenzuela depot was part of the DOTr’s continuing efforts to "muster all factors needed in building the underground railway project and in dealing with right-of-way acquisition issues."
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, who led the ceremony, noted the progress in the right-of-way acquisition both in terms of acquiring land from legal owners and relocation of informal settler families.
A total of 460 lots were required for the partial operability section of the subway, out of which 364 offers to buy have had been issued based on current market value appraised by the Landbank, according to the DOTr.
Owners of 285 lots out of the 364 lots that the government had already offered to buy, had accepted or were completing documentation requirements for selling their properties to the government for the project.
A batch of project-affected landowners were present during the ceremony and received their check payments.
Meanwhile, 178 out of 183 affected informal settler families had been resettled to a better and safer location in Disiplina Village in Barangay Bignay, Valenzuela City with the support of the Valenzuela City local government.
“This gathering today is the primodial trigger to be able to start the subway. That is why this gathering is important. Wala naman ‘hong proyektong mai-implement kung ‘yung babagtasin mo na daan ay hindi pa nasolusyunan," Tugade said.
"Ngayong araw na ‘hong ito ang signal na para bang sinasabi nating parating na ang subway,” he said.
Following the official transfer of the properties from the landowners to the DOTr, contractors then started the clearing and fencing of portions of the depot.
“With our funding in place, contractor signed-up, detailed designs completed, and right-of-way substantially acquired, and under the strong willed leadership of our leader, Secretary Arthur Tugade, partial operability of the Duterte Administration's flagship Metro Manila Subway Project is on track to delivering its promise of a more comfortable life to every Filipino,” said Transportation Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John Batan. — DVM, GMA News