From left: UP Diliman Chancellor Caesar Saloma, Philippine Council for Industry and Energy Research and Development Executive Director Amelia Guevara,CHEd Chariman Patricia Licuanan, UP President Alfredo Pascual, Metals Industry Research and Development Center Director Arthur Lucas Cruz and DOST Secretary Mario Montejo. JOSHUA MARK DALUPANG

By Xianne Arcangel

Nine months from now, members of the UP community might be able to ride a locally-made train touted as the future of Philippine mass transport.

The University of the Philippines and the Department of Science and Technology signed Monday a memorandum of agreement (MOA) for the construction of a 500-meter monorail track which will serve as the test site of the country’s first Automated Guideway Transit (AGT) System.

“[What] we have just signed this morning will launch a collaborative study by DOST and UP to determine the feasibility of introducing AGT as a low-cost solution to the country’s mass transport need,” said UP President Alfredo Pascual, who attended the MOA signing and groundbreaking ceremony at UP Diliman.

The president described the AGT prototype to as two 60-seater coaches running on electricity in one track.

The monorail’s initial route will span the length of the Commission of Higher Education on C.P. Garcia Avenue to the UP Press Building near the Academic Oval.

According to DOST Secretary Mario Montejo, initial calculations made by the department indicate that a locally developed AGT can be produced at just one-fourth or one-fifth of the cost of building a LRT or MRT line.

“We are now fully convinced that a monorail-type of elevated transport system is the most cost-effective. Yun ang lumabas sa aming (That is what we learned in our) initial prototype test,” he said.

Montejo said the data obtained by the DOST from the AGT’s test runs will be used to improve the system, which he hopes will eventually be built in areas facing transportation problems.

Pascual said the impact of the monorail on UP’s Ikot drivers cannot be determined at present since the AGT’s construction has yet to start. He, however, said that the monorail’s effect on the drivers’ livelihood will be included in the AGT’s feasibility studies.

“We still have to study the how the AGT will affect other transport vehicles. We can’t say for certain what these effects will be, but other vehicles might still be needed inside the campus since the monorail will be fixed to a circular path. But, we will consider the impact it will have on Ikot jeepney drivers,” Pascual said in Filipino.

Soraya Elisse Escandor, University Student Council councilor and head of the USC’s Student Rights and Welfare Committee, said that although students are seen to directly benefit from the project, various groups within the university should also be consulted.

“We should also look at how the project will affect the community, for instance, if some need to be relocated because of the construction. We should also look at how it will affect the Ikot drivers – if they will have a hard time getting passengers. We need to look at the other factors, not just the students’ opinion,” she said in Filipino.

For his part, Ikot driver Baylon Manzanero opposes the construction of the AGT due to the fear that  the new transport system will eventually lead to the phasing out of jeepneys within UP.

In Filipino, he said, “It will be difficult if the project pushes through. We might bear the burden because we might be the ones to lose our livelihood.”

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