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If elected, Binay vows to revive PNR’s Bicol trip

MANILA, Philippines - If he wins the presidency next year, Vice President Jejomar Binay will push for the revival of the Philippine National Railways (PNR)’s trip to Bicol, saying this would create a positive impact on the country’s tourism sector.

Binay, who was in Albay yesterday, said he would prioritize the repair and rehabilitation of the railway system.

“We support the rehabilitation of the PNR. It’s just unfortunate that after a hundred years, the national railways have degenerated. From 1,300 kilometers, it has shrunk to 28 kilometers,” he said.

The Vice President said the world’s most developed nations all have traditional railway systems, citing the United States, which has 224,792 kilometers and China with 112,000 kilometers.

“This 28-kilometer track between Tutuban (Manila) and Alabang (Muntinlupa) pales in comparison with countries that have long found the economic and social benefits of the railways,” he said. 

Binay said transport continues to play an important role in enabling economic development and poverty reduction.

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“We plan to revive the Manila-Bicol line gradually, first starting with the Alabang-Calamba line, then Calamba (Laguna) to Matnog (Sorsogon),” he said, adding the return of the “Bicol Express” will be good for the tourism industry, and that this approach could be adopted by other provinces to boost local tourism.

Binay visited the towns of Camalig, Daraga and Legazpi City yesterday. He is scheduled to go to Tigaon and Naga, Camarines Sur today. 

The Vice President stressed the need to appoint a competent manager to take charge of the PNR whose priority should be to check the deteriorating infrastructure and rolling stock, and implement a regular maintenance check.

He reiterated his proposal to construct a subway line along EDSA to decongest traffic.

Binay said the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has recommended the subway project as part of its year-long study on the mass transportation requirement of Metro Manila. 

According to JICA, building a subway is the best solution to the longstanding issues of traffic congestion and overcapacity of MRT 3.

The Vice President also underlined the need for the secretary of transportation to be a civil engineer to ensure that he or she understands the scientific and engineering aspects of all the projects that have to be supervised and fast-tracked.

P89 B for rail project

The Japanese government has committed P89 billion of the total project cost of P105.3 billion for the North-South commuter rail project.

“The latter’s assistance for the project makes it Japan’s biggest official development assistance (ODA) to the Philippines,”  Socio-economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said in a press briefing on Tuesday.

The project was recently approved by the Philippine government, which will shoulder the balance of the total project cost.

The North-South Commuter Rail Project has two lines.

The north line will start from San Fernando in La Union to Dagupan in Pangasinan, San Jose in Nueva Ecija, Tarlac and end in Tutuban in Manila.        

The south line starts from Tutuban to Legaspi in Albay. It has extension lines to Calamba, Laguna to Batangas City, and from Legaspi to Matnog, Sorsogon.

It was finalized after the ministerial level first steering committee meeting yesterday on the larger cooperation roadmap for quality infrastructure development in the transport sector in Metropolitan Manila. – With Ted Torres

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