Politics

PHL public transport system behind by 35 years in development — senator

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PHILIPPINE STAR/MICHAEL VARCAS

A SENATOR has called for increased investments in the country’s transport infrastructure and systems, saying the sector’s development is behind by 35 years compared with neighbors in the southeast Asian region.   

“My estimate is that we’re about… 35 years behind in terms of infrastructure development and transportation modernization compared to our neighbors,” Senator Joseph Victor G. Ejercito said in a statement on Tuesday.  

He did not immediately provide a response when asked if he meant public or private capital outlay, or both.    

“For several decades, we have not really invested much on transport the way our ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) neighbors did,” he said. “We are only investing about 2% of the gross domestic product. It’s supposed to be 5% for infrastructure development,” he added.  

The senator said enhancing the country’s public transportation, especially railways, will boost efforts to revive the economy from the aftereffects of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“With transportation, with railway systems, more than airports, movement of people, movement of goods will be easier. That will attract, of course, foreign investments. That will make doing business easy and more convenient,” he said.  

“Transportation modernization and infrastructure development will cost a lot, but I think the returns to the economy will be enormous,” he added.  

POWER SUPPLYAnother senator, meanwhile, called on the Department of Energy (DoE) to address the longstanding problem of thin energy reserves, which puts the delivery of supply at risk every year during the hot, dry months.   

“This is a perennial problem that the DoE needs to solve immediately,” Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian said in a statement on Tuesday. “It has been a tradition already that every summer, our consumers will be at risk of experiencing brownouts.”  

DoE officials announced on Monday that Luzon’s power grid will likely experience deficient reserves for seven months this year.  

Mr. Gatchalian said the department should ensure that power source projects lined up to start this year will commence operations as scheduled.   

“DoE should make sure that the 1,091MW (megawatts) of new capacity for 2023 should come online on time,” he added.   

DoE Undersecretary Rowena Cristina L. Guevara on Monday said that some power plants in Luzon may experience forced outages that would reduce available capacity by 500-600 MW this year.  

The yellow alerts are anticipated to take place during the summer months of April to June as well as during the September-November period.  

Mr. Gatchalian also noted existing measures that can be tapped such as the Interruptible Load Program (ILP), which allows customers to operate their generating sets and collectively reduce electricity drawn from the grid to ration limited power supply.  

The Visayas in central Philippines, which is connected to the Luzon grid, is also likely to experience alerts for low supply.   

Mindanao in the south, with the interconnection facility still under construction, is expected to have sufficient power reserves for this year. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan