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Govt to spend $5.8B on railways in 2022

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Govt to spend $5.8B on railways in 2022

The government expects to spend $5.79 million on railway projects in 2022, according to the Department of Transportation (DoTr).

A diesel hydraulic train waits for passengers at the Philippine National Railway Buendia station in Makati City.  PHOTO BY RENE H. DILAN

During an India-Philippines infrastructure cooperation virtual conference on Thursday, Transportation Undersecretary Timothy Batan called the figure the most it would be spend next year, as almost all contracts for railway projects had been awarded.

“We ended 2020 with 32 railway contracts [awarded] and we are on track to reach 65 contracts awarded by the end of 2022,” Batan said.

By next year, some railways would already be under construction and even operating, he added.

According to the DoTr official, there were only 77 kilometers of railway routes, 61 stations and 224 coaches operating in 2016, when President Rodrigo Duterte began his term. These are expected to increase to 1200 km, 168 stations and 1381 coaches when his term ends next year.

Projects currently under construction include the Light Rail Transit 1 (LRT-1) Cavite Extension; LRT-2 East Extension; MRT-4; Metro Manila Subway; and North-South Commuter Railway.

The LRT-1 Cavite Extension involves adding eight stations — Redemptorist; MIA; Asia World; Ninoy Aquino; Dr. Santos; Las Piñas; Zapote; and Niog Street in Bacoor City, Cavite province — from Baclaran station in Parañaque City. Once built, the project will raise the LRT-1’s passenger capacity from 500,000 to 800,000 and cut travel time from Baclaran to Bacoor from one to two hours to 25 minutes.

The LRT-2 East Extension seeks to extend this line by 4 km from Santolan Station in Pasig City with the addition of two stations: Emerald, which would rise in the vicinity of three shopping malls; and Masinag in Antipolo City, Rizal province. Once completed, it is expected to add 80,000 passengers to its capacity and reduce travel time between C.M. Recto Avenue and Masinag Junction to 40 minutes.

The 15.56-km MRT-4, which a National Economic and Development Authority joint panel approved in December 2019, is a rail-based transit system that will have 11 station. Initially targeted for completion in 2025, this system is seen to benefit commuters in the cities of Mandaluyong, Pasig, Quezon and San Juan, as well as the towns of Cainta and Taytay in Rizal.

The Metro Manila Subway is envisioned to have 15 stations between Quirino Highway in Quezon City and FTI (Food Terminal Inc.) in Taguig City and a 36-km line. It was expected to be partially open next year and fully operational by 2026.

The 148-km North-South Commuter Railway will have 36 stations between New Clark City in Capas town, Tarlac province and Calamba City in Laguna province. It is divided into three phases: North Phase 1, which runs from Manila’s historic Tutuban Station to Malolos, Bulacan province; North Phase 2, from Malolos to Clark International Airport in Pampanga province; and South Phase, from Tutuban to Calamba. Its construction is projected to last this decade.

These projects are being funded by a combination of official development assistance (ODA) from China, the Asian Development Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency; public-private partnerships; and the national budget.

Of the said financing access, 91 percent will be funded through ODA. Batan said the country could still tap loans at a cheaper cost and with longer terms while it was being classified as a lower-middle-income economy.

The Duterte administration embarked on its P8-trillion Build, Build, Build program in 2016. Of this amount, 21.7 percent was allocated to railways and 42 percent to other transportation projects. Water projects have 12 percent, social infrastructure projects have 13 percent; and power and information technology would have the rest.

“We are having a massive railway asset buildup now, but if you look at our comparable urban centers, we need four to five more times in order to reach the same density, to get where our peer urban centers are at,” he said, referring to projects in the pipeline.