China open to reconfiguring NorthRail project, says Roxas

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BEIJING—Chinese officials are open to reconfiguring the NorthRail project so that the line will be extended from Mabalacat, Pampanga province, where the Clark airport is, to the Makati City central business district, Transportation Secretary Manuel Roxas II said on Thursday.

The NorthRail project was under review even before President Benigno Aquino III went on a state visit to China because its cost had skyrocketed from $503 million to about $2 billion.

“We have problems with that and so we will reconfigure the project itself, not just the contract, so that it will go into the central business district of Metro Manila. Now it just stops in Caloocan City. It will go to the airport itself because now it stops in Mabalacat,” Roxas said.

He said a reconfigured NorthRail project would have safeguards for the Philippine government.

In recognition of Chinese financing, Roxas said the accreditation for interested contractors would be among “experienced Chinese rail companies.”

“We can’t say that they already agreed. What we can say is that they are open and they did say that the ministers would go back to their counterparts and the details would be given attention,” Roxas said.

Suspended operations

Asked when he would meet with his Chinese counterpart, Roxas said: “We will write specifically each other and perhaps in a month’s time. But right now, we don’t have any added expense (in connection with the NorthRail) because its operations are suspended.”

Asked what would become of the expenses incurred by the current contractor, Chinese National Machinery Industry Corp., Roxas said, “We will pay for what services and what has been done because we would also need those.”

He said the contractor had only worked on a kilometer of the 80-kilometer stretch from Caloocan to Mabalacat.

“In fact, if we would compute what they already finished versus what we gave them in advance, theoretically they would even need to return funds to us,” Roxas said.

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