THE Philippines is one of the first countries in Asia to have a reliable railway system but because of lack of support from the government the country is lagging behind its neighbors in terms of having efficient, safe, fast and modern trains, according to Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito.
In a recent privileged speech, Ejercito blamed lack of interest of the Aquino administration to invest more in mass transportation particularly in an integrated railway system that could help spur progress.
He said while importance of having an efficient, cost-effective and safe railway system has been proven in other countries, the Philippine government continues to make it the least of its priorities as shown by the 2015 national budget, where P11 billion requested by the Philippine National Railways (PNR) from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) was chopped down to P2.2 billion.
“It’s about time that we address our weakness in public infrastructure. This is probably one of the reasons why our economy has not fully taken off inspite of improvement of ratings and good perception toward the Philippines,” Ejercito added.
He said the administration of President Benigno Aquino 3rd cannot use as reason lack of available budget for rehabilitation of the PNR because recent reports disclosed that the government’s underspending has left it with P267 billion, which, the senator added, is enough to modernize the country’s railway system.
Ejercito noted that lack of quality infrastructure is the reason why the country still suffers from low foreign direct investment compared to its neighbors, notwithstanding supposed economic gains being touted by the Aquino administration.
He said the Philippines ranks second in Southeast Asia for having poor quality infrastructure.
“I firmly believe that an efficient, reliable, cost-effective, environment-friendly and modern railway system can be the catalyst for growth that can stimulate development in our urban centers and the countryside,” Ejercito added.
In pushing for the PNR’s modernization, he cited eight reasons why the government should start giving priority to the establishment of a modernized railway system, including attracting more foreign direct investment and increasing agricultural productivity.
The senator said having a reliable train system would also create jobs for Filipinos; lead to lower cost of living not only in Metro Manila but also in other urban centers; reduce port congestion; lessen congestion in Metro Manila and other key regions; ease over-concentration of jobs and livelihood in Metro Manila; and help spread out development all over the country.
Ejercito pointed out that with the poor condition of the existing light rail transit systems, the government should tap existing transportation infrastructure such as the PNR in order to provide the public a safe, reliable and cost-effective train system.
Compared to the existing public transport systems in Asia, the PNR offers the cheapest fare as it only charges passengers P25 from Tutuban in Manila to Alabang in Muntinlupa City (Metro Manila) and P40 from Manila to Cabuyao, Laguna.
“Our countrymen deserve a better quality of life. And we the servants of our people, can provide this by taking huge and necessary steps toward progress and development,” Ejercito said in his privileged speech.