Lawmaker seeks creation of new government body to regulate railway industry

Lawmaker seeks creation of new government body to regulate railway industry
File photo of Philippine National Railway
Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — A House lawmaker is seeking the creation of a single industry authority within the Philippine bureaucracy that would regulate the railway industry and ensure its efficient management.

House Bill 8510 or the proposed Railways Industry Authority Act of 2023, filed by Rep. Bernadette Herrera (Bagong Henerasyon Partylist) on Saturday, proposes the creation of the Railways Industry Authority of the Philippines, which would be an attached agency of the transport department.

According to the bill's explanatory note, the proposed Railways Industry Authority would be the centralized body that would regulate the country's numerous railway systems and ensure their compliance with the latest safety standards, among others.

This is in response to the current "fragmented" management of railway systems, which leads to "inconsistencies in policies and standards, as well as inefficiencies in the planning and regulatory processes," the bill's explanatory note stated.

The proposed body will be independently governed by an industry board that will issue certifications and franchises, and regulate the country's railway industry and investments in the sector, among other functions.

The railway management body would also be tasked to prescribe and enforce railway-industry-related standards, rules and guidance, in compliance with domestic statutes and international mandates.

According to the measure, the proposed body shall be composed of the Secretary and Undersecretary for Railways of the Department of Transportation, chiefs of the Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Public Works, Department of Budget and Management and Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Finance; and one representative from the private sector.

As it is, the previous Duterte administration opened the country's railways sector to investments and full foreign ownership when it passed the Public Services Act.

Much of the country's railways remain under the government's stewardship, with one exception being the Light Rail Manila Corp., a consortium led by conglomerate Metro Pacific Investments Corp. that operates the LRT-1.

If the bill is passed into law, it would amend the mandates of the Light Rail Transit Authority and Philippine National Railways.

Out of the 194 infrastructure projects propped by the Marcos Jr. administration, eight of those in the pipeline are railways proposals that will be funded by either public-private partnerships or official development assistance. — Ramon Royandoyan and Cristina Chi 

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