Decongest Metro Manila immediately, foreign investors plead

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Transport topped the infrastructure wish list of foreign investors, as they called on the government to immediately work on the decongestion of Metro Manila.

In a policy note, the Australia-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce (ANZCham) and the Joint Foreign Chambers put forward recommendations to the Duterte administration as it seeks to ramp up infrastructure development in its term.

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Metro Manila is the fourth largest urban area in the world, it read. With more than 24 million people in the capital, its physical structures can barely cope.

The business groups called for the completion of major road projects, such as the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Expressway, as well as the connector between the North and South Luzon Expressways.

The capacity of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line 1 and Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3 should be doubled, while the West and East extensions of LRT Line 2 should be completed.

The overburdened NAIA also needs to be addressed as soon as possible, according to Henry Basilio, a consultant for the United States Agency for International Development.

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In an ANZCham forum on Tuesday, Basilio said the government could further develop the Clark International Airport so it could act as an alternative gateway.

Provincial airports must also be equipped and accredited for night flights, so trips no longer have to be routed through Manila, he said.

As for ports, the foreign chambers said the Subic, Clark and Batangas ports remained underutilized. The future growth of Manila ports should be limited, and traders must be encouraged to relocate to nearby ports, as well as ports in Cagayan de Oro, Cebu and Davao.

More than people and cars, cargo also clogs the capital, Basilio pointed out.
"There is a sense that there is a momentum for change," ANZCham President Tom Grealy said in the forum.

Economic managers have vowed to spend up to 5% of the gross domestic product solely on infrastructure, Grealy explained. They are also proposing emergency powers for President Rodrigo Duterte, so he can avert what they say is a full-blown "transport crisis."

Basilio said the decongestion of Metro Manila would go hand-in-hand with the spread of development to the rural areas — another key objective of the Duterte administration.

As new areas are built up across the country, he explained, they act as "economic magnets," attracting companies to set up business there. People no longer have to move to Manila, since they can tap opportunities elsewhere in the country.

Published: http://cnnphilippines.com/business/2016/07/06/Decongest-Metro-Manila-foreign-investors.html

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