The South line of the North-South Railway Project that would provide a reliable railway system between Bicol and Manila will finally push through under the Duterte administration after a number of hitches in the past.
President Rodrigo Duterte is set to officially approve the project, now costing P285 billion, by the end of the month, Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda said Wednesday.
Salceda earlier assured Bicolanos the project would push through, this time under a different procurement method, since it “remains a priority investment project of the national government and a vitally urgent infrastructure for Southern Luzon.”
It involves a new sets of railway tracks from Tutuban in Manila to Legazpi City in Albay, then to Matnog in Sorsogon, crossing the Southern Tagalog region and mainland Bicol.
Previously estimated at P171 billion, the project was reportedly stricken out of the Department of Transportation’s Public Private Partnership projects list due to funding and investment problems.
It was reclassified under the direct expenditure scheme, which means the national government and Congress “would find ways to look for the needed financing to implement it,” said Salceda, senior vice chairman of the house ways and means committee.
He said Japan and China both recently committed to the project, which is scheduled to start this year and would be completed by 2021, within the term of President Duterte.
Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade, in a separate statement, also assured the NSRP south line would be finished under the President’s tenure.
“As I have been advised, the Tutuban-Los Banos line would be financed, and therefore implemented, by Japan, and the Los Banos-Matnog line would be financed by China. This is a critical and central project of President Duterte,” said Salceda.
The lawmaker recently consulted with Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, and National Economic and Development Authority Deputy Director General Rolando G. Tungpalan.
The NSRP south line was one of three railway projects approved by the Neda Investment Coordination Committee during the joint technical board and Cabinet Committee meeting last June 1.
It was approved in 2015 by the Bicol Regional Development Council, which Salceda chaired, and endorsed to the Neda Inter-Agency Coordinating Committee for PPP.
It was approved by the Neda Board on Feb. 16, 2015.
Salceda said the South Railway Line, when completed, will vastly improve connectivity and efficiency among urban centers and regional growth hubs, and thus enhance productivity in the industry, services and agriculture sectors
It will further boost Bicol’s tourism by as much as 30 percent, which forms part of the predicted 24 percent in economic returns it will bring to the countryside when fully operationalized, the Albay solon added.
The lawmaker, one of the most ardent proponents of the project, said the NRSP South Line completes Albay’s multi-modal transport model—air, sea, road and rails—and is expected to unlock the huge potential of Bicol, particularly Albay, the regional center.
It is also expected to cut by half the present 12-hour Manila-Legazpi travel time, and provides commuters a comfortable and reliable transport system.
Its proposed P1,300 fare per passenger is deemed reasonable enough, Salceda added.
“The project will likewise expand trade and open more investment opportunities that will make Bicol’s agricultural and processed products more competitive in the markets of Divisoria,” he added.
“In bringing in needed inputs to our industries, and basic commodities to our households. Tourism will receive the biggest boost from it, hiking tourist flow – domestic tourism by 30 percent and foreign arrivals by 10 percent – since a train ride from Manila to Legazpi is an attraction by itself,” Salceda said.
The new railways system involves seven train sets, 66 stations and 10 daily trips that will ferry some 316,000 passengers per day when it opens in 2020.
Rail transport between Manila and Bicol is considered practical and convenient for students, vacationists, traders and workers, Salceda said.
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