Trains in Visayas, Mindanao regions ‘great equalizers’

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A member of Congress is counting on the Duterte administration’s massive railway projects in the Visayas and Mindanao to serve as “great equalizers” to the tens of billions of pesos that the national government has been spending every year to subsidize Luzon’s commuter trains.

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Both the 71-kilometer Cebu Light Rail Transit (LRT) and the 2,000-km Mindanao train projects are expected to help correct the huge imbalance in the allocation of taxpayer money for public transportation, according to House Deputy Majority Leader and Cebu Rep. Gerald Anthony Gullas Jr.

“Right now, national government spending for public trains is 100-percent concentrated in Luzon, simply because we in the Visayas and Mindanao don’t have any railways. And this is totally unfair,” Gullas said in a statement.

In 2017 alone, according to the lawmaker, the national government intends to spend another P25 billion to maintain, upgrade and expand Luzon’s trains, including P9.4 billion for the North-South Rail Project Phase 2 (Tutuban-Calamba-Batangas-Legazpi-Matnog) and P4.8 billion in direct subsidy to the Metro Rail Transit 3.

“We have very high hopes that both the Cebu and the Mindanao rail projects will finally take off in the next three to four years. Everybody wants both projects, and so does Malacañang, so there is definitely greater visibility in execution now,” Gullas said.

In his first State of the Nation Address, President Rodrigo Duterte had vowed to carry out the train projects in the Visayas and Mindanao.

“In the case of the Cebu LRT, we are just waiting for the experts from Singapore to complete their preliminary study. We’ve been told the results should be available by next month,” Gullas said.

Michael Diño, presidential assistant for the Visayas, said the Cebu LRT– estimated to cost several billions of pesos–would have to be performed via public-private partnership.

Gullas said an overhead LRT system is the only way Metro Cebu could cope with future demand for a fast and reliable public transport system.

“Many Cebuanos choose to drive cars to work, thus contributing in a big way to road congestion, simply because we have very limited access to safe, clean and comfortable public transport,” the lawmaker added.

He is author of a long-pending bill that seeks to mandate the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to prepare and execute a plan to establish and operate the Cebu LRT System in Metro Cebu.

As proposed by Gullas, the elevated commuter train would run between Talisay City and Mandaue City.
Additional railways would eventually be built from Talisay to the Municipality of Dalaguete in the south, and from Mandaue to the Municipality of Sogod in the north.

The fastest-growing urban center outside Metro Manila, Metro Cebu groups the seven cities of Cebu, Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu, Danao, Talisay, Naga and Carcar, plus the six municipalities of Consolacion, Liloan, Compostela, Cordova, Minglanilla and San Fernando.

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