LEGAZPI CITY – Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda pushed for the construction and completion of the Naga-Legazpi railways stretch, a project that is seen to boost tourism and economic activities in Bicol region, while the Philippine National Railways South Long Haul is taking time to launch.
Salceda, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, said he had a recent meeting with Department of Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista to explore options for realigning vital transportation projects in Bicol that would benefit the region and its residents.
He said he brought up the idea of a modern railway segment that would connect Naga City in Camarines Sur and Legazpi City, Bicol’s regional center, which is situated in Albay’s second congressional district.
Salceda said DOTr Railways Undersecretary Cesar Chavez, also a Bicolano, promised to immediately work on the Naga-Legazpi Rail proposal to be funded by the national government.
A noted economist, Salceda said he is positive that further development and improvements in transportation infrastructure in the Bicol region would further help promote increased tourism and economic activities in Southern Luzon.
The P142-billion PNR South Long-Haul railway project, originally proposed by Salceda, hit a snag after the Duterte administration scrapped its funding scheme over the purported ‘inaction’ of Eximbank, the Chinese state bank, on the Philippine loan.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. subsequently identified the PNR South Long-Haul project as a priority of his administration, and was said to be among the topics of his China visit in January, which Salceda said is an urgent and priority concern.
The project, according to Salceda, is a vitally urgent infrastructure not only for Bicol but for the entire Southern Luzon, Vizayas and Mindanao. It was approved and strongly recommended by the Bicol Regional Development Council in 2015, during his term as its chairman.
He described the project as part of a series of multi-modal big-ticket projects to make Bicol a more convenient gateway to the Visayas and Mindanao: “With air, sea, road, and rails access, Albay reaffirms its role as Bicol’s regional hub and economic radiation center,” he said.
Salceda said while negotiations were being undertaken for the funding of the PNR South Haul project, it would be worth the while to push and complete the Naga-Legazpi Rail segment, with a budget that is well within the national government to fund and which would definitely give the best returns on investment.