Build the North-South Railway


LAST week, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) reported that the government as soon as the end of this quarter may begin the first steps in the project tender process for a proposed 653-kilometer, $3.8 billion railroad connecting Manila with Batangas and Luzon’s southernmost point at Matnog, Sorsogon.

If the news elicited any reaction at all from the public, it was probably ambivalence. The enthusiastic proposal of grandiose projects that fail to even start happens so frequently, it’s almost a tradition.
There is frankly nothing about the proposed North-South Railway project to suggest it will be any different. For one thing, the timing of the announcement, coming as it did before the feasibility study for the project is even completed, seems suspiciously political. The nearly P170-billion price tag is clearly beyond the country’s means; ADB emphasized that the project would require “significant international sponsor and financier participation.” And the project is to be made part of the Public-Private Partnership program, a development framework that is rapidly falling out of fashion elsewhere in the world and has been more difficult than anticipated to implement here.

All of these are fundamental reasons why the Aquino Administration should make the North-South Railway its priority project for the last year of President B.S. Aquino’s term.

Of course, the railway itself will have tremendous benefits for commuters and long-distance travelers between Manila and southern Luzon, and can be built to accommodate freight traffic as well. Beyond its practical benefits, however, achieving the goal of completing the railroad within a reasonable timeframe can address a whole host of institutional issues.

From a political standpoint, initiating the railway project – which will take years to complete even under the best of circumstances – can be a way for President Aquino to finally match actions to glib words about finding a successor to “continue his reforms” by giving a potential successor some actual reforms worth continuing. Even setting a modest, but realistic goal such as to have the project contract awarded and the project itself in an advanced state of design and preparation by the end of his term, problems such as the chronically bad interface between government agencies, incomplete, unnecessarily burdensome, or confusing investment and tax regulations, and excessive litigation will have to be addressed.

Likewise, solutions will need to be in place to address issues such as the relocation of “informal settlers” and property ownership disputes along the proposed railroad’s right-of-way. Improving security and preventing crime is also a key issue; the recent derailment of a PNR commuter train was apparently caused by scavengers stealing metal track fittings to sell for scrap, as have been many similar incidents in the past.

Aquino and his tiresome spokespeople have spent five years repeating the same weary platitudes about his administration’s commitment to building infrastructure and very little but further deterioration has occurred. Committing to beginning an audaciously large-scale infrastructure project that will not be completed until long after he is gone – perhaps so long that his contribution to it will be forgotten – will demonstrate that Aquino at least believes his own rhetoric, is willing to make a sincere effort to follow through on it, and contribute something tangible his successors can build on.


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  1. When it’s a BANK who’s the one giving the “good” ideas, beware, they’re waving a bait. These banks don’t care if 1/3 of the money goes into corruption or if the project gets finished or not. All they care about is the loan and the interest payments. Banks will be banks.

  2. Railways are outdated transportation systems from the 20th century. North America developed a massive and efficient road network that moves products quickly and cheaply. In many parts of North America the rail lines are being torn up since there is no need for them because the trucking industry can better provide the service. Building more and better roads should be the Philippine governments priority. Private industry built and abandoned the railroads in North America. If there is a need, the private sector can build a railroad here in the Philippines.

  3. Ikabod Bubwit on

    It is the international businessmen and corporations in the Philippines who needs this railway and not the Filipino people. Let these big corporations pay for it !!!

  4. Enrico David on

    Haynaku. Plataporma yan nung 2010 nina Gordon at Bayani. Siguor kung sila nanalo tapos na yan.

  5. Matthew Parkes on

    How are Filipinos – a nationality with all the organisational skills of projectile vomit – supposed to manage a project of this magnitude? This would be tough for sensible nations to manage so there is no chance that the brown trash of Asia will do anything more than turn this into yet another disaster and yet another blight on this nation’s reputation with other countries.

    Forget about it and try again in 2022 when there may be a small chance that someone other than the usual incompetent criminals rises up and decides to lead this backwards country.

  6. Faustino Jao on

    Projected cost of 170 billion pesos for the North-South Railway project is a huge infrastructure price tag.Why not build 3 baseload power plants (with rated capacity of 1,800 megawatts) in Visayas ,another 3 baseload power plants (with rated capacity of 2,400 megawatts) in Mindanao so that our national government could hasten the economic and infrastructure development of the said two areas.
    The timetable for commercial operations of these power plants can be achieved within 5 to 7 years.DOE must ensure that the power rates coming from these power plants would be much lower than prevailing Luzon power rates or implement an increment power rate adjustments every 5 years or whichever is beneficial to the end-users.

  7. Anything that Aquino now proposes is rejected out of hand because of his displays to “do nothing that will no benefit his allies”. There are many things needed to be done. Nothing is done because of a priority to help better the nation.

  8. hindi na itinuloy ni boypickup yung sinabi nya nung dotc head pa sya na ire-negotiate nya yung north rail project na itinigil nila ni boy sisi after the gov’t of arroyo has relocated all the squatters living along the rail tracks from manila to bulacan. palagay marami na namang squatters na nakabalik duon at malaking pera na naman ang itatapon pag paalis uli sa mga ito.ito ay isa sa mga non-action ni boypickup pati yung laguna lake dredging

    • emmanuel mallari on

      i agree. sana itinuloy na lang ng nitong matuwad na daan yung north rail project ni gma. construction started in malolos and when this president came to power they stopped everything saying they will renegotiate the contract as it is disadvantageous sa government. what happened later…NONE. The informal settlers are beginning to return albeit slowly. Now they will make their own project at the last year of this administration’s term. Why on the last year? Kulang pa siguro ang nakurakot nila to make sure na ang mananalo ang manok nila as president. Else, sa kankungan din dadamputin ang project nilang ito.

    • ernesto albay on

      ang masam ngayon sa ating gobyerno ay kung inumpisahan ng iba ay ayaw ituloy kasi rpogramis being initiated by other, and their own initiative to do.
      The goverment must enact a law that a program shall be continously implemented whoever approved the project. Should a project be disrupted just think how much resources being lost and time spent will all be lost. this should be avoided.South railway must be improved and double track to improved the transportation to the south and will be augmented by RORO in the end of Mindanao to keep movement of businesses. Aside from more better road networks to keep the traffic flow in mindanao.

      Paano mag-eenact ng law ang gobyerno ni BS Aquino at ang Congress na controlled niya e siya yung nagcancel ng mga big and worthy infra projects na inapprove na ng mga experto at ng Congress nuong panahon ni President Arroyo? Kaya pinag-ca-cancel ni Aquino ay para magkaroon siya at si Abad ng malaking pondo para sa unconstitutional at illegal na DAP!!!

  9. Gusto niyang isipin ng tao kapag wala na siya,na ang lahat ng ito ay siya ang nagplano at nag umpisa,utak demonyo talaga!di ba!