TRANSPORTATION Secretary Jaime J. Bautista said on Tuesday that P600 million in funding has been obtained for feasibility studies on four railway projects.

“The budget for the feasibility studies came from the Public-Private Partnership Center of the Philippines and Official Development Assistance (ODA). Some came from our existing budget,” Mr. Bautista said on the sidelines of a Post-SONA (State of the Nation Address) briefing at the Hilton Hotel.

The four projects, with a combined 1,024 kilometers of track, are the Philippine National Railway (PNR) North Long Haul line, the Panay Railway, the North Mindanao Railway, and the San Mateo Railway.

According to Mr. Bautista, procurement is now ongoing for consultants that will prepare the feasibility studies.

Mr. Bautista said preparing the studies “will take more than a year. It is not easy to do feasibility studies.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Bautista said that the Department of Transportation (DoTr) and its agencies are seeking to start soon on rehabilitating the country’s main gateway for air travel.

“One major project that the DoTr will implement this year is the modernization and the upgrading of the Manila International Airport (MIA),” Mr. Bautista said.

“This will result in an increased capacity of the MIA, considering that this airport is already congested with only a capacity of 32 million passengers per year but is now handling more than 40 million,” he said.

Mr. Bautista said that the airport is currently handling around 140,000 passengers a day, higher than the 115,000 passengers it served a year earlier.

“Part of the terms of reference is the (project proponent’s) upfront payment. We are still finalizing the amount but the initial amount that we are looking at is P30 billion,” Mr. Bautista said.

Mr. Bautista also said that the DoTr is looking at making progress with other airports, including the New Manila International Airport, which will be built in Bulakan, Bulacan.

“The MIA is currently handling around 50 million passengers. In the next few years, the passengers here in the Philippines could reach 70 million to 100 million and the MIA cannot handle more passengers. That is why we need more airports,” he said.

Mr. Bautista said San Miguel Corp. is making substantial progress on the four-runway airport in Bulacan.

“The land development (there) is almost 70-75% complete and we hope that by next year they can start to construct the runway or passenger terminal building,” he said.

“This concession agreement was approved by the previous administration. Although still at the land development stages, we hope that before the end of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s administration there will be partial operations,” he added. — Justine Irish D. Tabile