FILIPINO and Chinese transportation and railway officials are expected to seal anytime soon a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that would pave the way for the rehabilitation and modernization of the 653-kilometer Manila to Bicol railway system.
The P117.3-billion Manila-Bicol South Railway Project was approved last year by the National Economic and Development Authority.
“The President told us, ‘Give me a railway,’ ”Philippine National Railways Chairman Roberto Lastimoso said on Monday during the weekly Tapatan sa Aristocrat media forum in Malate, Manila, quoting President Rodrigo Duterte.
“It will happen, we will do it, ” according to Lastimoso.
The Manila-Bicol train project will be implemented under the public-private partnership scheme.
Lastimoso disclosed before the media forum that also in the pipeline is the P214-billion North-South Railway Project, which will connect the Visayas and Mindanao regions.
It will be one of the biggest infrastructure projects under the Duterte administration, he said.
In the same forum, lawyer Timothy John Batan, Railway Sector senior project development officer of the Department of Transportation, said the Manila-Bicol project would come first.
“The modernization of the Tutuban [in Manila’s Divisoria area]to Bicol railway system will come handy because it has no more right-of-way problems,” he added.
At present, the PNR train service is only from Tutuban to Calamba City, Laguna, south of Manila.
Batan assured though that once the project is completed in 2021, it will reach Legazpi City (provincial capital of Albay in Bicol), including an additional route to Matnog, Sorsogon, and Clark Freeport, Pampanga, north of Manila.
During the presidential campaign in May last year, Duterte expressed his support for the establishment of a modern train system in Luzon that will reach up to the Ilocos Region and also in the entire island of Mindanao and as well as in the Panay, Negros and Cebu regions.