Don’t delay railway projects, lawmakers urge DOTr
Lawmakers pressed the Department of Transportation (DOTr) on Wednesday to ensure that six railway projects, including a subway in Metro Manila, would not be hounded by delays that plagued past projects.
“The updates sound very good… but how can you assure us that the [DOTr] will be able to meet these timelines?” Cebu City Rep. Raul del Mar asked DOTr officials at the hearing of the House committee on transportation.
The officials led by Undersecretary Timothy John Batan briefed members of the House of Representatives on the status of railway projects under the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program.
6 railway projects
With loans from the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the DOTr has lined up six railway projects, including the 147-kilometer North South Commuter Railway from Clark in Pampanga to Calamba City in Laguna province, which is projected to cost P777.5 billion; and the 35-km Metro Manila Subway project from Quezon City to Parañaque worth P356 billion.
It is also pursuing the P16.3-billion rehabilitation of Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3 on Edsa, and the P12.9-billion expansion of Light Rail Transit (LRT) 1 to Cavite province and LRT 2 (Antipolo City segment).
The DOTr is also funding the establishment of a Philippine Railway Institute, which would provide training and accreditation of workers in the country’s railway industry.
Delays in 153 projects
Lawmakers, however, expressed concern that these projects may not be finished as scheduled and would entail added costs for the government.
In its 2017 report, the Commission on Audit (COA) questioned the failed implementation of 153 of 159 DOTr projects worth P58.9 billion, which included a number of railway projects.
The COA blamed changes in “policy directions by political leaders and economic managers.”
Batan assured lawmakers that the DOTr had set up a monitoring facility being hosted by the National Economic and Development Authority to ensure that the timelines were followed.
He said the MRT 3 rehabilitation project was in full swing following the signing of the contract on Dec. 28 last year with the original Japanese contractor, Sumitomo Corp. The project is to be completed by March 2021.
Overhaul of trains
The project involves rehabilitation and upgrade of the railway system to its original “as-designed” state, and overhaul of 72 trains and replacement of tracks, as well as the upgrade of the signaling, power supply and communications systems.
Batan said the DOTr was set to demolish about 100 concrete piers of the unfinished phase of the Northrail project from Tutuban in Manila to Malolos City in Bulacan province to pave the way for the construction of a new railway structure.
Construction starts in the first quarter of the year. (See What Went Before on this page.)
The DOTr is relocating informal settlers living along the tracks, as well as bidding out contracts for the civil works and purchase of coaches.
The railway project’s southern end will extend from Tutuban to Calamba City, a stretch of 53 km, and will cut down travel time to one hour. It is set to be started in the second quarter of the year, and will be completed by 2023.
Construction of the Metro Manila Subway project is set to start in the first quarter and is expected to break ground this month, according to Batan. It is due to be completed by 2025.
The DOTr expects the subway to cut travel time from Quezon City to Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Parañaque City to 42 minutes, and will serve some 370,000 passengers daily in its opening year.
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