POSTSCRIPT / October 30, 2011 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Pick low-hanging, ripening fruits first

CLARK FIELD — Chairman Felicito Payumo of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority advises those overwhelmed by big, daunting and unstructured tasks to pick the low-hanging fruits first. Also the ripened ones, he adds.

“It makes sense not only because it gives us a sense of movement or progress but because success breeds success,” Payumo explains. “It’s a good psychological prop. Do the doables first while you are figuring out what and how to do the rest.

He said that is what they now face at BCDA, the 19-year-old company integrating the development of a string of former military camps, airports, seaports, tollways and railways in Metro Manila and the midsection of Luzon.

He discussed the “fruits” approach, applicable to the transport connection projects of the Aquino administration, in remarks before the Rotary Club of Pasig last Thursday.

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GAME CHANGER: Properties of the BCDA are in various stages “ripeness” involving different arrangements with prospective investors.

Payumo said, “While we do our mandated ‘bread and butter’ task of selling or liquidating our land assets at the former Fort Bonifacio and Villamor Air Base, we want to do what is ‘strategic’ in the development of Metro Manila and of Central and Northern Luzon.

“We are not just ‘liquidators.’ We are ‘game changers.’ We want to do what will be game changing in the administration of President Aquino III.

He asked: “What could be more strategic and game changing than effecting the linkup between the airports of Manila and Clark, and at the same time helping solve the horrendous traffic problem of Greater Manila?”

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LINKUP VS TRANSFER: Payumo said he used “linkup” because “transfer” connotes uprooting, and that has triggered a spirited debate.

“But whether we have one airport or a dual airport system for the Capital Region like Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok,London or D.C.,” he said, “Any talk of a linkup will remain idle talk unless we solve the connection problem between the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport.”

He cited issues raised on split operations in a dual airport system such as concentrating only the international services in one and the domestic in the other, or the long haul in one and the short haul in the other.

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DMIA PREFERRED: Why the preference at this point for DMIA in the Clark Freeport here?

Among the six sites considered that included Sangley Point and Talim Island, Clark is considered in a JICA study as the best, because it already has two top-class runways, 2500 hectares of land, and the capability to handle A380 operations.

Payumo said this conclusion is contingent on these conditions: Concurrent completion of a high-speed rail connection (travel time not exceeding 45 minutes); concurrent completion of NLEx/Skyway connections; timely development of support facilities and infrastructure at and around DMIA, including the terminal for both Low Cost Carriers and Legacy Airlines.

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RIPE PROJECT: These preconditions are ideals “devoutly to be wished.” But they are not exactly low-hanging fruits, especially the high speed rail.

Payumo said one has already ripened and is not hanging too high to be brought down. That is the connection of NLEx, Skyway, and SLEx. Its completion, he added, will also make the Terminal project (for the Budget Carriers, at least) for seven million passengers viable.

An unsolicited offer for the NLEx-SLEx elevated expressway connector using the Philippine National Railway alignment is ready for a competitive challenge. The process, he said, should be allowed to continue without delay.

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BOT-QUALIFIED: Payumo said the unsolicited offer “qualifies under the Build-Operate-Transfer Law which requires that the offer involve new concept (technology or design) and that it is not in the government’s list of priority projects.”

“The idea of using the air space above the PNR alignment to connect NLEx and SLEx would come only from one who has keen interest in connecting them,” he said. “Certainly, no bureaucrat in DPWH would have thought of including it in the list of priority projects.”

He was obviously referring to the Manila North Tollways Corp., which operates the NLEx and soon the SCTEx.

* * *

RAIL LINE LATER: This elevated NLEx-SLEx connector would make travel between NAIA and DMIA, a distance of 100 kms, a mere 70 minutes instead of two or even three hours that it now takes.

Payumo said that while it would not be as fast as an express train, it would partly address the connectivity issue between the two airports. If awarded this year, this connector could be finished during the term of President Aquino.

On the other hand, the express train, whether on the NorthRail alignment or on NLEx, will come way after President Aquino’s term.

Another ripening fruit, though not exactly low lying but reachable during President Aquino’s term, is the elevated monorail project that BCDA can do with the DOTC and MMDA for Taguig (Global City) and Pasay (Airport City) and Makati. The monorail loop will connect with the MRT at EDSA, LRT at Taft and the PNR line at Osmeña.

* * *

BALE BALITA: Clark Development Corp. President&CEO Felipe Antonio B. Remollo signed here last Friday with the Capampangan in Media Inc. (CAMI) an agreement for the latter’s use of Bldg. 2090 as its operations base in the region. It is now called Bale Balita (House of News).

Projects lined up include the holding of seminars/workshops to help upgrade the competence of brothers in trade, including campus journalists, and the holding of regular kapihan forums with newsmakers in Central Luzon. It will also be a workplace for accredited media going to Clark on coverage.

After the MoA signing, with this PhilSTAR columnist signing as CAMI president and Bulletin chief editor Cris Icban Jr. as CAMI chairman, Bale Balita was blessed by Archbishop Paciano Aniceto of the archdiocese of Pampanga.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 30, 2011)

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