MANILA, Philippines – The Chinese government is projected to invest in the country by funding the P151-billion, 581-kilometer railroad that will link Laguna to Sorsogon in Bicol region, said Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade.
Should it fulfilled, then it would form part of the longest railway project in the Philippines so far. Its first three (3) phases, the 107.5-kilometer railway connecting Manila to Clark in Pampanga as well as the 72-kilometer Manila-Laguna rairwaiy line, will be funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
These two aforementioned projects, will cost P225 billion and P134 billion, respectively.
“We would like to have partnerships with countries using their own technologies. What the economic cluster decided is that the group of Luzon will go to the Japanese government and that the group of Bicol hopefully will go to the Chinese government,” DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade said to the reporters on the sidelines of an event in Manila on Monday, June 26.
“If we put two systems in one place, I will have a problem of mutual relevance and compatibility,” Tugade noted.
Timothy John Batan, the Transportation Assistant Secretary for rails, explained that the third stage of the railway, the Manila-Laguna commuter line, will still be funded by the JICA.
The project was launched under the name North-South Railway Project back in 2015, the last full year of the administration of President Benigno “PNoy” Aquino III. It was also during the Aquino administration when the government and JICA agreed to sign a $1.99-billion (P105-billion) loan deal for the line segment that links Tutuban in Manila, to Malolos in Bulacan.
The P150-billion railway line division that will connect Malolos, Bulacan, to Clark, Pampanga, will also be granted by JICA, Tugade added.
JICA said that once implemented, this “could be a game changer in the Philippines’ public transport system whose population density is 19,000 people for every one square kilometer,” which is higher than in Tokyo, Japan, and most of the other cities in Asia.
The first two railway projects constructions, Tutuban-Malolos and Malolos-Clark, will begin in the last quarter of 2017 and will be completed by the last quarter of 2021.
Meanwhile, the signing of the official development assistance (ODA) for the last two segments in the South Luzon – Tutuban-Laguna and Laguna-Batangas-Quezon-Camarines Sur-Albay-Sorsogon – has not been done yet.
“It stands with rhyme and reason that we spread out the market. I want to start activities that are not covered by legal requirements of procurement and bidding; [otherwise] I will lose time,” Tugade said in an interview.
The DOTr said the railway will link cities, international seaports, and freeport economic zones, allowing for faster movement of commuters and cargo.
The Aquino administration had auctioned off the south railroad lines of the project (Manila-Sorsogon). The Duterte administration then decided to continue the segment by financing it through official development assistance from Japan and China.
Tugade further said that the mega Mindanao railway project (MindaRail) might also be funded through ODA from the Chinese government.
During the state visit of President Rodrigo Duterte in China, the Philippines was able to score a $9-billion loan deal from credit facilities to be made available for businesses, development projects, and infrastructure, amongst others.