Manila Bay Bridge Cavite Bataan Interlink Bridge
An artist's redering of the planned Manila Bay mega-bridge. Once built, the 32.15-km bridge will be oen of the world's longest marine bridges. Image Credit: ADB


  • Multi-billion projects in progress to ease movement of 15 million Manila inhabitants.
  • In 2023, the average travel time per 10 kilometres was 25 minutes and 30 seconds, as per Tom Tom Index. 
  • A number of projects are snagged in right-of-way (ROW) issues, a major cause of delays.

Manila: Highways here are chock-a-block with cars on most days. Rush-hour traffic means inching your way through smog-filled city roads. 

With signs of congested living conditions posing as a constant reminder, Manila’s worst-in-the-world traffic status is marked by overcrowding, informal settlements and environmental degradation.

It's anyone's guess how long this sorry state will hold true.

Mega projects

But while writhing in a state of controlled chaos, Manila is in a flux. A transformation is underway. The pace of movement is gathering speed, with more than $31 billion (nearly 2 trillion pesos, Php) worth of projects set.

These aren't mere projects. Some are titans of infrastructure geared up against a notorious enemy: gridlock.

Top-tier builders, taking advantage of public-private partnership funding arrangements, have their hands full. From subways burrowing beneath the city, overhead trains snaking through the sky, to verdant "greenways" weaving between them – these are just a part of the metropolis's massive redevelopment. A number of these projects, however, are facing undue delays due to right-of-way issues.

Will they finally offer residents a breath of fresh air (and a faster commute)?

Here's a list of major Manila undertakings:

#1. Metro Manila Subway

Cost: $8.33-billion (Php355 billion)

Manila Subway project
Over the next 15 years, the Philippines is set to be the fastest-growing construction market, averaging over 6 per cent growth per annum, according to Oxford Economics and Aon. SteelAsia is involved in significant projects – high-rises, bridges, and the $8.3-billion 33-km Manila Subway project (shown in photo).. Image Credit: Department of Transportation

The 33-km Manila subway (17 stations) is a major infrastructure project aimed at improving public transport in the capital region, enhancing mobility and connectivity.

It will connect Valenzuela City in the north to FTI-Bicutan in Parañaque City in the south, with a “spur” line reaching Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 in Pasay City.

Start: 2017

Completion: 2029 (some stations might become operational earlier)

#2. The Metro Rail Transit Line 7 (MRT-7)

Cost: $1.5 billion (Php77 billion)

This elevated rapid transit system aims to connect North Avenue in Quezon City to San Jose del Monte in Bulacan, spanning approximately 22.8 km with 14 stations. Expected to significantly cut travel time between Quezon City and Bulacan from the current 2-3 hours during peak hours to about 35 minutes.

It will also help decongest major roads and highways, including Commonwealth Avenue and other key thoroughfares in Metro Manila, and stimulate economic activities in the areas it serves. Unfortunately, some reported right-of-way issues could delay this project, as owners of affected property take the proponents to court.

Start: 2016

Completion: 2025 (could be pushed back to 2027)

MRT 7 train Manila
Manila's MRT Line 7 will expand the existing MRT system. Right-of-way issues could push back the slated 2025 completion date by several months, if not years.

#3. LRT-1 Cavite Extension

Cost: $1.11 billion (Php64.915 billion)

This will add 11 km to the existing LRT-1 system, and cut travel time from Baclaran, Pasay City to Niog, Cavite from 1 hour and 10 minutes to 25 minutes. It will increase the number of LRT-1 stations will increase from 20 to 28. When fully operational, it is expected to serve up to 800,000 passengers/day.

The line will cover several major cities including Quezon City, Caloocan, Manila, Pasay, and Paranaque, all the way to Bacoor, Cavite. Phase 1 (6.2 km from Baclaran Station to Dr. Santos Station in Parañaque City) is 98.2 per cent complete as of end-April 2024; it is set to be operational before the end of 2024 (can serve up to 600,000/day). This is another project pushed back by right-of-way snags.

Start: 2016

Completion: 2031 (original target date was 2020, Phase 1 due by end-2024)

#4. North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR) System

Cost: $14.96 billion (Php873 billion)

Construction of the North-South Commuter Railway train sets
Construction of the North-South Commuter Railway is underway. The three-stage rail project will run a 147-km route, through 37 stations with up to 464 train cars. It will pass 28 cities and municipalities in Central Luzon, Metro Manila and Calabarzon. Image Credit: PNR

This 147-km train system will connect Metro Manila to Bulacan, Pampanga, and Laguna. It has a daily capacity of 800,000 passengers daily. The line is the most expensive railway transportation project in the country.

Start: 2019

Completion: 2029

Philippines North-South Commuter Railway
Construction of Balagtas station of the North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR) in Sitio Karuyan, Longos, Bulacan. The 147-kilometer stretch of urban rail transit connecting New Clark City to Calamba will have 36 stations across Central Luzon, the National Capital Region, and Calabarzon. Image Credit: Wikipedia

#5: Cavitex-C5 Link Road (Section 3B)

Cost: $56.26 million (Php3.3 billion)

A 2-km, 6-lane road connecting Cavitex (Manila – Cavite Toll Expressway Project) in Parañaque to Circumferential Road 5 (C5) Road in Taguig. This project, executed by DMCI Construction Corp will benefit those travelling between Cavite and Taguig.

Start: June 2024

Completion: August 2025

#6. Cavitex-Calax Link Extension

Cost: $460 million (Php23.2 billion)

A 1.3-km, 4-lane road connecting the Manila-Cavite Expressway (Cavitex) to the Calax (Cavite-Laguna Expressway Project) Terminus in Kawit, Cavite. It is designed to improve connectivity and reduce travel time in the southern part of Metro Manila. Executed by the Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation (MPTC), the project is aimed to speed up traffic flow and provide an alternative route to decongest existing roads.

Start: Late 2021/early 2022.

Completion: Q2 2025

#7. EDSA Greenways Project

Cost: $150.8 million (Php8.793 billion)

The much-anticipated project involves building covered and elevated walkways along specific stretches of EDSA, improving pedestrian facilities around key mass transit stations, and connections to nearby amenities and transport facilities, and creating pedestrian walkways in key areas. Overall, it seeks to encourage walking as a zero-emission transportation mode.

Start: 2021

Completion: 2027

#8. EDSA Busway Improvement Project

Cost: $171.5 million (Php10 billion)

This project has been fairly successul. It aims to improve bus rapid transit (BRT) efficiency on EDSA with dedicated lanes, stations, and signalisation upgrades. This project aims to provide a long-term solution to traffic congestion by offering a comfortable and efficient alternative to private vehicles.

Start: 2019

Completion: Ongoing

#9. Bataan-Cavite Interlink Bridge

Cost: $4.4 billion (Php 256 billion)

This 32.15-km suspension bridge project is designed to connect Bataan and Cavite across Manila Bay, creating a link that would “bypass” the capital, boost trade and social links between the two provinces across the Bay.

The project will be funded partly from a $2.1 billion loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), with the rest tobe allocated by the Philippine government. The bridge, once completed, will provide a vital transport loop and reinforce links between Manila and central Luzon, as well as neighbouring industrial areas around Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon provinces).

Start: Q1 2024

Completion: 2029

Manila Bay Bridge Cavite Bataan Interlink Bridge
An artist's redering of the planned Manila Bay mega-bridge. Once complete, the 32.15-km bridge will be oen of the world's longest marine bridges. Image Credit: ADB

#10. Metro Manila Bridges Project

Cost: $211.4 million (Php12.32 billion)

This project, financed with a $175.1 million loan from the ADB, involves the construction of three new bridges across the Marikina River. The total cost for these three bridges is estimated at $211.4 million​.

Several bridge projects have been completed or underway, creating alternative routes and decongesting major thoroughfares. These include the Kalayaan Bridge, Binondo-Intramuros Bridge, Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge, and the ongoing construction of the East Bank-West Bank Bridge 2.

Start: (September 2024, for East Bank-West Bank Bridge 2)

Completion: Various dates 

A view under-construction buildings at the Bonifacio Global City (BGC)
A view of the Bonifacio Global City (BGC, with some buildings still under construction) as seen from the Kalayaan (“Freedom”) Bridge, which opened in June 2021. Also known as Sta. Monica-Lawton Bridge, its links BGC and Ortigas business districts in Manila which will also be connected by the under-construction Manila subway.

Striking a balance

Manila’s allure as the centre of business, government, and education draws citizens from all over the country. This centralisation, a condition created by the drafters of the country’s ultra-nationalist 1987 Constitution, creates a dramatic snowball effect: more people means more jobs and services needed, attracting even more residents.

The limited space in Manila struggles to accommodate this influx, leading to overpopulation (Manila beats the world's major cities in terms of population density).

Manila traffic population density vs other cities
Image Credit: Gulf News

Will these projects attract even more people to the capital, thus piling up urban squalor? Only time will tell.

A more balanced and inclusive development strategy across the Philippines, however, could eventually help ease the city’s burden and improve quality of life nationwide.