Lawmaker to DOTr: Why put funds for Manila-Bicol rail when it’s stagnant?
MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker has questioned the Department of Transportation (DOTr) why P3.1 billion was allocated to South Long Haul project when its status is uncertain.
BH party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera raised this issue on Monday at the House Committee on appropriations’ deliberations of DOTr’s budget.
She inquired from Undersecretary for Railways Cesar Chavez if the department has a timetable for the undertaking.
Herrera noted the project — which will connect Metro Manila to Albay in Bicol — has no disbursement rate.
“Our South Long Haul has a zero disbursement rate up to this very point, but a big budget has been set aside for this. What do we plan to do with this?” Herrera asked in Filipino.
“I’d like an answer to this […] . Nothing has happened for five years na, so what is the DOTr’s plan with this, and yet we set aside a big amount of funding for this?” she wanted to find out.
Chavez explained the mode of funding for South Long Haul project is for a foreign loan, with P142 billion needed to start the project.
However, since China Export-Import Bank has not approved the loan, no civil works contract has been finalized.
DOTr also has a P14 billion contract with China Railway Design Corporation.
The transportation official said P2 billion of it has already been spent.
Chavez said Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista has directed them to talk with National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) and Department of Finance (DOF) on these matters.
Then, representatives of the departments concerned intend to communicate with the Chinese Embassy about the projects.
“We requested that the DOF make another representation to the China ExIm Bank, and at three or four months ago. Usec TJ (Batan) and I, and the former undersecretary of Finance, of DOF, met with the Chinese Embassy, the economic counselor and informed (asked) them. ‘What’s your definitive plan on the South Long Haul?'” Chavez recalled.
“We were given no clear direction on this and there is the status,” he said.
“Therefore, finally, our position is that by the end of December, the DOTr would have to go back to Neda to ask for a guidance whether to still request for funding from the China ExIm Bank or to terminate the PMC and also to withdraw the loan application, reapplication for the China ExIm Bank,” he added.
DOTr previously announced South Long Haul will be a priority by government.
However, last August 12, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri revealed government would no longer tap Chinese firms in big-ticket projects.