ALTHOUGH President Benigno Aquino III was only joking when he promised to have himself run over by a train if he fails to complete the Light Rail Transit extension to Cavite, he is serious in improving the mass transport system in the country, Malacañang said Tuesday.
“What the government is showing is that they are determined to improve the system of transportation,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.
“Maybe it is more logical or more just [that the statement made by the President] should not be taken literally, and we must understand that the President really wants to make the services better,” Coloma added.
“[Aquino] is serious in his determination to give a much better mass transport system. We must understand that it is not that easy to do such a project, but the government is decided on this, and is determined to accomplish this task,” he said.
Coloma made the remark after netizens needled Aquino on social media about his boast in 2013 that he will have the LRT extension project completed by 2015.
“And if that doesn’t happen, here’s Secretary Abaya who’s in charge of the project, he and I will have ourselves run over by a train,” Aquino said in Filipino.
As early as July, a video of Aquino’s 2013 campaign speech in Cavite was posted on various websites and social media, with some critics saying they were eagerly awaiting the end of the year.
The LRT’s private concessionaire, Light Rail Manila Corp., said no progress has been made in the two years since the President made his campaign promise.
“There are no new developments for the LRT-1 Cavite Extension Project as the notice to proceed hasn’t yet been given to LRMC by the [Department of Transportation and Communications],” the company said in a statement.
Coloma reiterated that the public must understand Aquino only said what he said in jest and the government was still working on the bidding of the project. The awarding after the bidding was made only on September 2015, Coloma said.
He said Ayala Corporation and Metro Pacific Corporation, in partnership with Macquarie Investments, will be implementing the extension project.
He said the group would do the operations and maintenance of the existing LRT Line 1 from Monumento to Baclaran, as based on the concept, as well as the extension from Baclaran to Bacoor.
Coloma said there is also the third segment, from Bacoor to Imus, and up to Dasmariñas, whose contract is only now being subjected to public bidding.
Coloma explained that the bidding process alone is complicated since this requires a ridership forecast, which is not easy to do and takes a lot of time.
“It is not easy to do a major project,” Coloma said. “Let us wait for the report of the consortium regarding this, but we assure you that they are now working on this since the project was already been awarded to them.”