Manila-Laguna cargo rail on hold for now

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Rail operator MRail is anxious to develop the planned cargo rail service connecting Manila International Container Terminal to the Laguna Gateway Inland Container Terminal, but is awaiting direction from the government as to whether the project is included in the Duterte administration’s infrastructure plans.

“We have discussions to see what the plans of the government are,” Meralco Chief Financial Officer Betty Cheng Siy-Yap told The Manila Times on the sidelines of a press briefing on Wednesday.

MRail is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Meralco, which is in turn a subsidiary of the Metro Pacific Investments Corp.

“We need our partners to help us talk to the government,” Siy-Yap said.


According to Siy-Yap, as much as their company wanted to pursue the project, they are still waiting for clarity from the transport sector “if not this month, maybe next month.”

Siy-Yap noted that the government is prioritizing passenger transport, while their proposed project is for cargo.
“Most of the projects now will be financed by official development assistance. If it’s ODA, it’s going to take a while,” Siy-Yap said.

According to Siy-Yap, if next month’s State of the Union Address clarifies the planned cargo rail project will not be part of the ODA project list, it would give direction to their company to pursue.

MPIC president and chief executive officer Jose Lim said that previously, they “thought” that the government “wanted it done as quickly as possible.”

Lim indicated that even without a clear signal from the government, the company is preparing itself to build the project in case it is approved by the government.

“We are ready,” Lim said.

The proposed P10-billion project for which an agreement was signed last year by MRail and MICT operator International Container Terminal Services Inc. includes the acquisition of eight locomotives and 120 wagons, and involves rehabilitating Philippine National Railways (PNR) tracks from Tutuban to the Port of Manila and constructing a stabling yard in Calamba for the container trains.

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