MANILA – The first contract package (CP101) of the Metro Manila Subway Project (MMSP) is 40 percent complete and is on track for partial operations by 2029, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said Thursday.

In a press conference following a site visit and launch of tunnel boring machine (TBM) 4 at the MMSP’s North Avenue Station, DOTr Secretary Jaime Bautista said the project’s on-time completion would mostly depend on resolving right-of-way (ROW) issues.

To date, he said some properties where stations are located are owned by private individuals, in addition to a Department of Education (DepEd) building that cannot be demolished due to its status as a heritage site.

“Meron din issues like property owners na ayaw nila ‘yung MMSP dumaan sa ilalim ng kanilang property (There are also issues like property owners that protest against having the MMSP tunnel run under their property),” Bautista said.

DOTr Undersecretary for Rails Jeremy Regino said while the ROW challenges of the MMSP is the “first of its kind and the largest in magnitude in Metro Manila,” expropriation — or the government claiming a private property against the wishes of its owners — would allow for the project to proceed on time.

While expropriation is not “forced occupation” but rather a “just compensation,” Regino said the option is only the government’s last recourse should negotiations with the property owners arrive at an impasse

The tunnel boring machine at the Metro Manila Subway Project’s North Avenue Station (PNA photo by Joan Bondoc)

“We have now shortened the negotiation process. If there will be no agreement, we will have to file expropriation proceedings but without prejudice to continue with the negotiations,” he said.

He noted that being granted a writ of possession would also “not bar the continuation and conclusion of a successful negotiation.”

“We are doing our best to convince property owners, all things considered, that their concerns are already factored in,” he said.

During the event, Bautista, Regino, and other officials of the DOTr conducted a site visit at the CP101 site being constructed by the Joint Venture of Shimizu Corporation, Fujita Corporation, Takenaka Civil Engineering & Construction Co., Ltd, and EEI Corporation.

The CP101 is one of seven civil works contracts of the MMSP and involves the construction of three underground stations — Quirino Highway, Tandang Sora, and North Ave. stations — and a depot in Valenzuela City

Department of Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista visits the site of the ongoing construction of the Metro Manila Subway Project at the North Ave. Station on March 7, 2024. (PNA photo by Joan Bondoc)

The MMSP — the country’s first underground railway — is a 33-kilometer railway system that will connect Valenzuela City in the north to Pasay City in the south, with a spur line at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 in Parañaque City.

Once operational, the subway is seen to reduce travel time from Valenzuela to NAIA from a drive of one hour and 30 minutes to a 35-minute train ride — and is capable of serving 519,000 passengers daily. (PNA)