LEGAZPI CITY: Outgoing governor and incoming Albay second district solon Joey Salceda accused the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) of midnight deal following the splitting of a planned railway project in Bicol.
“It’s a midnight deal for the biggest property developer of Calabarzon- the Ayalas,” Salceda, chairman of Regional Development Council (RDC) in Bicol said.
The move to split into two the North-South Railway Project – South Line project from Manila to Bicol was strongly opposed by outgoing Albay governor and incoming Congressman Joey S. Salceda of the second district.
He said that the regions to be affected never endorsed the splitting of the project. “The idea is for the commuter rail (Tutuban-Calamba) to subsidize the long haul (Calamba-Legazpi). This ICC (investment coordination committee) decision, prompted by the same DOTC, reflects regulatory capture of PPP via the proponent implementing nation-al government agency,” Salceda lamented.
Procedurally, he said “The ICC is bypassing the RDCs. Definitely, RDC Bicol as far as I know is against this splitting since it favors the commuter railways by rewarding it with higher returns, while the expenditure will essentially be reimbursed.”
“What is dismaying is that these changes are being made in the midnight of an outgoing DOTC. We oppose the sudden change in terms of reference, the lack of consultations with affected RDCs and the tasteless timing. Our people have aspired and waited for this for 30 years. Your RDC and the Luzon RDCom have worked on this specific project for the past 5 years,” Salceda said.
In Congress, according to Salceda, they will work with the new DOTC to return to the full line (Tutuban-Legazpi) and shift from narrow to standard gauge track to allow faster trains.
The NEDA-ICC approved the transportation department’s proposal to split the project into two, the planned commuter railway and the long-haul railway, which would be bid out to private sector proponents separately.
“This is an open insult to the professed preferential treatment of the poor in the countryside by the new admin-istration with a historic mandate of 16 million,” he said.
Salceda said the Duterte administration would not allow this to pass and it would certainly review the project.
“But no matter how frustrated, we will never give up and we have highest hopes in President Rody. I ain’t giving up. More so, we will convert this into a blessing in disguise, as it would give the new administration the opportunity to consider faster trains over the long haul. Disgusting, suddenly when you have to yield to the desires of big pri-vate conglomerates, you did not even bother to inform us, much more consult us,” Salceda pointed out.
Ayala refutes Salceda claim
For its part, however, Ayala Corporation flatly denied Salceda’s charge. “It is not true and the accusation is base-less. AC Infra has not yet even prequalified for the project,” a company representative said in a brief statement to The Manila Times.
NEDA Deputy Director-General Rolando G. Tungpalan said that the state planning agency’s investment coordina-tion committee (ICC) approved the recommended changes in the proposed P170.7-billion, 653-kilometer south line of the North-South Railway Project, which would run from Manila to Legaspi City.
But the biggest public-private partnership (PPP) project connecting Metro Manila and the Bicol region will be de-layed after the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) approved the new twist in the terms ap-proved by President Aquino in 2015.
The original plan approved by the NEDA board chaired by President Aquino last year is consisted of commuter rail-way operations between Tutuban, Manila, and Calamba, Laguna, as well as a long-haul railway operation between Tutuban and Legazpi, on top of the extended long-haul rail operations on the branch line between Calamba and Batangas and an extension between Legazpi and Matnog, Sorsogon.
Following the opposition of Salceda regarding the delay of railway projects in Bicol, Frocks Roque of the Public-Private Partnership Center Project Development Service said in a letter to Salceda that the agency’s new Executive Director, Usec. Raj Palacios, would like to meet with him to discuss the recent developments of the North-South Railway Project – South Line.
Salceda told reporters in Legazpi that he will conduct a probe regarding the midnight deal of North-South Railway Project – South Line project.
with Katrina Mennen A. Valdez