The monorail prospect

By: STEPHEN CAPILLAS November 23,2017 - 10:07 PM


Upon first learning about a press conference on a proposed monorail project for Metro Cebu from yesterday’s piece of Cebu Daily News columnist Jobers Bersales, (“Moving Cebu’s monorail forward”) I was reminded anew, rightly or wrongly (wrongly if the monorail project proponents had anything to say about it), about a 1993 episode of that long-running animated TV series “The Simpsons” entitled “Marge vs The Monorail.”

The episode written by former “Saturday Night Live” writer and now talk show host Conan O’ Brien told the story of how a conman named Lyle Laney (voiced by the late comedian Phil Hartman) managed to convince the entire city of Springfield into buying what turned out to be a dangerously defective monorail system for US $3 million.

It was quite funny and had a voiceover cameo of the late Star Trek star Leonard Nimoy though I doubt if anyone under 30 or so — cough, millennial (why label generations in the first place?) — will find it so.

Anyway, one of the running themes of that episode was, as O’ Brien himself described it in a performance at the Hollywood Bowl to celebrate The Simpsons’ legacy, “bad futuristic mass transit ideas.”

But I’m confident that today’s scheduled press conference on the proposed monorail project at one of Cebu City’s hotels won’t be anything at all like Laney’s monorail sales pitch, though it was quite the colorful musical number — just type the words “Marge vs the Monorail” on YouTube and see for yourself.

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Citing details from Bersales’ column, the monorail project being spearheaded by Manila-based company PhilTram Transportation Consortium Inc. or PhilTram will consist of an electrically powered locomotive running through a single loop within Cebu City together with a line from the South Road Properties (SRP) straight to UN Avenue in Mandaue City.

One need only a cursory knowledge of mass transport and infrastructure to see the benefits of linking two cities together; and Mandaue City being the heart of Metro Cebu since all commuters and motorists to and from the mainland pass through it, the monorail can provide a fast, safe and convenient means of transport for commuters.

There is still that feasibility study to be done, but again citing Bersales’ info, PhilTram has a venture with two Chinese firms for the project which would likely raise its chances of being approved by President Rodrigo Duterte considering that a similar monorail project will be implemented in Davao City.

Another good point is that the monorail project can complement the ongoing Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project being implemented for Cebu City which means it can further reduce passenger volume and with it, traffic congestion to hopefully manageable levels.

Why scrap one project in favor of another when the original project’s viability had already been verified by other governments willing to finance it is something people have a hard time wrapping their heads around.

I don’t know what Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña’s sentiments are on this development, but based on his previous statements on the Light Railway Transit (LRT) — he doesn’t oppose it so long as the national government pays for its construction — the monorail project may gain local support.

It’s still far off, but the monorail project may hold the promise of a better mass transport alternative not only for Metro Cebu but throughout the country as well.

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Speaking of Chinese firms, not a few were surprised, pleasantly or not, with news that President Rodrigo Duterte offered to let the Chinese government enter as a new player in the country’s telecommunications industry.

A lot of people see it as a good thing if only to break the duopoly held by Smart and Globe on the burgeoning WiFi market. Never mind the possibility that it may allow access by the Chinese government into calls and messages made by Pinoy subscribers.

Corollary to this is the joint venture by Facebook affiliate Pacific Light Cable Network and the national government for the “Luzon Bypass Project” aimed at raising WiFi speed up to two terabytes per second, or as news reports said is equivalent to the combined capacity of both Smart and Globe.

But why stop at China? Maybe the national government can also make similar offers to other interested investors. That way, the Filipino people can have more choices. That said, local players should also be protected, provided they offer quality services at competitive (read: reasonable) rates.

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