THE second phase of the North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR) project continues to gain traction after the Department of Transportation-Philippine National Railways (DoTr-PNR) and the NLEX Corp. signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021 for the construction of columns for the PNR Clark project.

Under the agreement, columns for the PNR Clark project will be constructed at the shoulders and median island that will cross above the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) to allow the seamless operations of both the expressway and the railway. DoTr-PNR and NLEX Corp. will also coordinate on the project design, traffic management plan, safety plan and security plan.

DoTr Undersecretary Giovanni Lopez said the government had gained the private sector's trust with the Build, Build, Build infrastructure program.

"The signing of our MOA will benefit not only the private sector, but the millions of Filipinos, who would be using this infrastructure project," Lopez said during the signing of the agreement.

Present during the MOA signing were DoTr Secretary Arthur "Art" Tugade, NLEX Corp. President and General Manager Luigi Bautista, Chief Finance Officer Maria Theresa Wells, and Bases Conversion and Development Authority Senior Vice President Joshua Bingcang.

The second leg of the NSCR project, the 53-kilometer PNR Clark phase 2 will be connecting cities and municipalities in Central Luzon with Metro Manila and will link the railway system with the country's first airport express service, going to Clark International Airport.

Once operational, PNR Clark phase 2 will reduce travel time between Makati City and Clark International Airport in less than 2 hours through the Airport Express Service.

The project's current overall progress is at 32.21 percent.

Meanwhile, Bautista said NLEX Corp. fully supports the NSCR project to help spur economic activity and revitalize the country's provinces by enhancing the country's transport approach to improve mobility of Filipinos.

"We at NLEX believe that our shared purpose of helping our country's economy grow through infrastructure development has suited us for this partnership. We are pleased to support this undertaking that will make travel easier for kababayans (countrymen) in Bulacan, in Pampanga and more areas in North and Central Luzon," Bautista added.

Bingcang said the PNR Clark project, being a part of the Build, Build, Build infrastructure program, was a "game changer" that would pave the way for opportunities for growth in Central Luzon.

"The BCDA plays a part in the Build, Build, Build program of the government, and in this, we'd like to extend our support to this project to see its unimpeded, continued implementation. The project is a game changer, as we continue to develop business around Clark in Pampanga to provide more options to the Filipino public," Bingcang added.