By Imee Charlee C. Delavin,
Senior Reporter

China ODA considered for railway South Line

Posted on June 27, 2017

THE GOVERNMENT is keen to obtain financing for the South Line of the North-South Railway Project through official development assistance (ODA) from China after yesterday marking the stations for the North Line of the project, which will be funded by Japan.

The DoTr held a marking ceremony for the Marilao and Meycauayan, Valenzuela, Caloocan, and Tutuban stations of the 106 kilometer (km) Manila-Clark Railway Project on June 26. Photo by Imee Charlee C. Delavin
“What the economic cluster decided is that the Luzon [railway] will go to Japan and the Bicol line and Mindanao [railway] will go to the Chinese government,” Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade told reporters on the sidelines of the marking ceremony of the Marilao and Meycauayan, Valenzuela, Caloocan, and Tutuban stations of the 106 kilometer (km) Manila-Clark Railway Project on Monday.

According to the Department of Transportation website -- which shows the details of the various infrastructure projects undertaken by the government -- the Philippine National Railways (PNR) South Line will run for 653 km, connecting Metro Manila with the Bicol region. It will cost a combined P285 billion for both the PNR South Commuter (P134 billion) and the PNR South Long Haul rail (P151 billion) lines.

The PNR South Long Haul is a 581 km, standard-gauge railway from Manila to Legazpi, passing through Laguna, Batangas, Quezon, Camarines Sur, Albay and Sorsogon and involves the complete reconstruction of the legacy PNR railway into a single-track (initial), at-grade railway, while the PNR South Commmuter line is a 72 km mass transportation railway from Manila to Los Baños, Laguna which will operate through a dual-track, electrified, standard-gauge railway with elevated, at-grade, and depressed sections.

Meanwhile, the Mindanao Railway -- projected for construction by the fourth quarter or early 2018 -- will connect Tagum-Davao City-Digos over a 105-km segment of the planned 2,000-km Mindanao Railway which will connect other key cities in Mindanao such as Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, General Santos, Iligan, Surigao and Zamboanga. The first phase is estimated to cost P31.544 billion.

In January, the cabinet’s economic team, including the Transportation and Public Works Secretaries, met with Chinese officials in Beijing regarding government-to-government projects which included flagship infrastructure projects such as the PNR South Line and the Mindanao Railway.

The government, which has made infrastructure its priority, has said it will reduce the use of public-private partnership (PPP) procurement which it says takes too long to implement. Instead, it prefers projects to be funded internally or through ODA or a mixture of these modes.

Also yesterday, Mr. Tugade -- who, along with Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno, Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia and Public Works Secretary Mark A. Villar -- led the marking ceremony of the five stations of the North Line, part of the 17 stations that will connect Metro Manila to Central Luzon -- said he is hoping that construction of the line will be completed by 2020, ahead of the earlier target of 2021.

Construction of the P255-billion project will start by the last quarter of this year, and will be funded by ODA from Japan. The government signed a $2.37-billion loan from Japan for the North Line of the North-South Commuters Railway (NSCR) deal in November 2015.

The entire line will have 13 train sets with eight cars or coaches per train set. Each train can reach a maximum speed of 120 km per hour, thus expected to cut the two-hour travel time from Metro Manila to Clark to just 55 minutes and will benefit 350,000 passengers daily on its first year of operations.

The 12 other stations in the plan for the North Line are: Solis in Tondo; Bocaue, Balagtas, Guiguinto, Malolos and Calumpit in Bulacan; and Apalit, San Fernando, Angeles, Clark, and Clark International Airport in Pampanga; as well as the proposed New Clark City.

“We hope to finish the term of President Duterte with at least 1,000 km of railway system all over the country,” Mr. Tugade said.

In a separate statement yesterday, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) said the ongoing Detailed Engineering Design for the NSCR Project, conducted through JICA grant, is nearing completion.

JICA noted that the NSCR will use Japanese technology to ensure commuter safety, taking into consideration seismic factors as well as deploy low-emission electric trains for sustainability. Once implemented, the NSCR could be a “game changer” for the public transport system serving the area, where population density is 19,000 persons for every square kilometer, higher than that of Tokyo and many Asian cities.

The government earlier said commitments of investment and development assistance pledges by Japan and China to the Philippines are among the largest amounts announced by the two neighbors for a single country.

Japan pledged $9 billion and China committed $24 billion worth of investment and development assistance to the Philippines.