PNR mulls extending railway system to Nueva Ecija, Cagayan
MANILA, Philippines–The government is looking into extending the massive railway network it wanted to build in Luzon northeast to the provinces of Nueva Ecija and as far as Cagayan, the state-run Philippine National Railways (PNR) said.
PNR general manager Jun B. Magno told reporters late Monday that while the current focus was connecting the so-called “Greater Capital Region” (GCR)—the National Capital Region, Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog—through the 147-kilometer North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR) Extension Project, the government was also exploring connecting the rail system running between the Clark Freeport Zone and Calamba, Laguna to a northeast commuter line.
In a press conference after the signing ceremony between the Philippine and Japanese governments for the first tranche of loan worth P80.5 billion extended by the latter for the NSCR, Magno said they already asked the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) to conduct feasibility studies for two possible railways: one between Balagtas, Bulacan and Cabanatuan City in Nueva Ecija; as well as another between San Jose City also in Nueva Ecija and Tarlac City.
According to Magno, the PNR has an alignment between Balagtas and Cabanatuan.
These proposed railway lines would be connected to the NSCR, Magno said.
“And then possibly, they [Neda] are doing a feasibility study of the Cagayan railroad, maybe through the Caraballo mountain [range] tunnel. Because if Central Luzon becomes part of the GCR, the new rice bowl would be Cagayan Valley,” Magno added.
The NSCR, to be implemented by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the PNR, will connect the ongoing Phase 1 between Malolos, Bulacan and Tutuban, Manila to the PNR South Commuter Railway to Calamba as well as the Malolos-Clark Railway.
Of the NSCR’s P628-billion total project cost, P488 billion will be co-financed by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) and the Manila-based multilateral lender Asian Development Bank (ADB), Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said.
To cover civil works, the ADB will extend P286 billion in three tranches, while Jica will lend the Philippines P201 billion in two tranches, Finance Assistant Secretary Maria Edita Z. Tan said.
The NSCR Extension Project will start construction next year to begin partial operations by 2022. /jpv
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