By Lara Climaco i FilAm Star Correspondent

Six years in the making, the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX) was finally inaugurated November 5 with government officials led by President Rodrigo Duterte promising it will have an impact on traffic congestion in Metro Manila.

“This will help ease traffic by limiting provincial buses plying Metro Manila roads, specifically along Roxas Boulevard and the EDSA-Taft area. It will also serve as a transfer point between the provincial buses from Cavite, western Batangas, and other in-city modes of transportation,” the President said during the inauguration ceremony.

Echoing Transport Sec. Arthur Tugade’s plug for the PITX as a landport, Duterte described the facility as a landmark project that “feels and functions like an airport.”

The PHP2.5-billion project is located along the Manila-Cavite Coastal Road. Built on a 4.59-hectare site, PITX boasts a three-level terminal building, five floors of leasable office space, park-ride facilities and a maintenance area, according to the Department of Transportation (DoTr). Arrival and departure bays are segregated, with the ground floor designated for departing buses, jeepneys and taxis and the second floor, for arriving public utility vehicles.

The third level is for private vehicles, complete with 852 car parking slots and a separate bay for shuttle service vans such as UV Express. In the future, a walkway will connect PITX to LRT Line 1, via the proposed extension that will extend the railway from Baclaran to Bacoor, Cavite.

About 1,060 arrivals and 949 departures can be accommodated at PITX on a daily basis with 59 bays allocated to provincial and city buses and another 49 bays for UV Express and jeepneys, the DOTr said in its project brief. The daily passenger capacity is 100,000, with peak hour volumes projected at 4,380 for arriving passengers and 3,808 departing commuters, it added.

Inside the terminal, there are centralized ticketing counters and 50 automated ticketing kiosks where commuters can make bus reservations and online bookings, and even select seats on their ride. There is ample seating at waiting areas where free Wi-Fi, charging points, locker facilities and telephone booths are available. There are also workstation areas designated for travelers.

Just like in a mall, the terminal has a centralized shopping center with retail and food outlets and a supermarket. Clean toilets, baby care rooms and breastfeeding stations, trolleys and wheelchairs for senior citizens and persons with disabilities, a clinic, prayer room and a pay-per-use lounge complete the amenities.

Louie Ferrer, president of MWM Terminals, said passenger comfort was a central focus in planning the facility in view of needs assessment studies that depicted extreme hardship on the part of commuters in dealing with the daily traffic chaos in Metro Manila. MWM Terminals will be operating the facility for 35 years under a Build-Transfer-Operate agreement with the DoTr. The company is a partnership between Megawide Construction and Waltermart.

In his speech, Tugade boasted that the government will be saving PHP 3.5 billion on the PITX, on top of earning a two per cent share in rentable income because he had renegotiated the contract. He asked MWM Terminals to waive annual grantor’s fees of PHP100 million for 35 years that had been stipulated in the original contract closed by the Aquino administration. Although the project officially began in November 2012, Tugade said only a few cranes were operating on-site when he inspected the project ahead of issuing a notice to proceed in October 2016. Over a series of meetings and negotiations with MWM Terminals, he reiterated the need to fast track project implementation and a shift in perspective towards helping the Philippine government, rather than collecting fees.

This will be the template for public-private partnerships to be undertaken by the Duterte administration, the DoTr secretary said.