Philippines: International trade unionists visit Metro Manila Subway project

As part of the Building and Woodworkers’ International’s (BWI) Global Conference on the Belt and Road Initiative held in the Philippines last June, trade unionists from different parts of the world joined a field visit to the country’s first ever Metro Manila Subway Project.  

The visit was organised by BWI’s Asia Pacific regional office to expose trade unions to more infrastructure projects financed by international financial institutions (IFIs) and come up with better strategies to promote occupational health and safety, and secure the right to collectively bargain.  

A total of 22 trade unionists visited the subway project depot located in Valenzuela City. Financed by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the project’s phase 1 was awarded to the Engineering Equipment, Incorporated (EEI), said to be one of the leading construction companies in the Philippines. 

The project is dubbed as the first underground railway system in the Philippines. Phase 1 of the project covers 36 kilometres and consists of 17 stations from Valenzuela City to the country’s premier international airport, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3, as well as the Food Terminal Incorporated (FTI). 

The field visit was made possible with the help of the EEI Supervisors and Staff Employees’ Union (EEIC-SSEU), which also arranged a safety induction and orientation of the project for the visiting trade unionists, and for an EEI project engineer to meet with the visitors and explain the current status of the project.

The visiting trade unionists were scheduled to witness an actual tunnel boring work on the said day after the project’s first tunnel boring machine was recently lowered and positioned at the subway’s depot in Valenzuela City. However, unexpected heavy rains forced the company to cancel work at the site to prevent accidents. 

The EEI is the only Quadruple A Rating construction firm in the Philippines. It is credited for building numerous infrastructure projects such as power plants, refineries, airports, railways, water distribution stations, and flood control systems. 

The company maintains close to 2,000 regular employees and recognises trade unions, such as the EEIC-SSEU, the largest with around 1,000 members, many of whom are professional engineers and architects. 

Two trade unions are also present at EEI subsidiaries, the EEI Construction and Marine, and the EEI Engineering Equipment, with 150 and 100 members respectively. These two unions work closely with the EEIC-SSEU. 

(First photo: The Philippine Star)