Tap Maharlika fund for Bicol Express – Rep. Brian Yamsuan
MANILA, Philippines — The government can use the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) — the country’s first sovereign wealth fund expected to be fully implemented before 2023 ends — to finance the derailed South Long Haul project, Bicol Saro party-list Rep. Brian Raymund Yamsuan suggested in a statement on Monday.
“We are hopeful that the President would include the revival of the Bicol Express [as the project is more popularly known] in the list of 80 infrastructure projects that would be given an additional mode of financing through the Maharlika Investment Fund,” Yamsuan said.
“The renaissance of the Bicol Express, which used to run from Manila to Albay, is a high-impact project that would greatly benefit the people of Bicol and the rest of South Luzon,” he added.
Yamsuan stressed that reviving the old line would benefit even stations outside of the Bicol Region because of the business boom it would create.
“Reviving this once-glorious rail line would boost South Luzon’s economic growth, create hundreds of thousands of new jobs and livelihood opportunities, and reenergize Bicol’s tourism industry,” he noted.
Yamsuan issued his statement after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said in a speech at the Philippine Economic Briefing held in San Francisco, California, last Thursday that the government was eyeing to finance “about 80 potential infrastructure projects” through the MIF.
The Bicol Express was supposed to be funded through a foreign loan, with P142 billion needed to start the project.
Initially, the China Export-Import Bank was supposed to provide the loan, but until now, no civil works contract has been finalized.
This led lawmakers, including Yamsuan, to prod the Department of Transportation to pursue other funding sources, such as another foreign loan, an official development assistance (ODA) deal, or a public-private partnership.
Yamsuan believes the South Long Haul project fits Marcos’ criteria for MIF financing — high rates of return and significant social and economic impact for its intended beneficiaries.
“Transforming the Bicol Express into a fast, efficient, and modern mode of transport should be affordable to workers, students, and other daily commuters,” Yamsuan said.
“The goal of reviving the rail line should be two-pronged — it should be a modern, safe, fast and comfortable way of traveling to and from Bicol, and at the same time, affordable to many Filipinos.”