Aquino says no to Panay rail revival
ILOILO CITY—The Visayas can wait.
The government’s priority on railway systems is Luzon, according to President Benigno Aquino during his visit to Capiz on Tuesday.
Mr. Aquino said a proposal to revive the railway system that connects Panay to Iloilo has not been discussed.
The focus of the new leadership of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), under defeated vice presidential candidate Manuel Araneta Roxas III, are the SouthRail railway system from Manila to Legazpi City and the controversial NorthRail system from Metro Manila to central and northern Luzon.
But while the President said the Panay-Iloilo railway system hasn’t been discussed, he raised doubts whether it was feasible to revive it.
Mr. Aquino said he believed it would be more economical to use trucks if the distance was less than 300 kilometers.
He said funds that would be spent for the railway project might be better used on roads.
The rehabilitation of the historic Panay railway system is among the major infrastructure projects being pushed to boost the island’s economy.
In a meeting held in April in Capiz, the home province of Roxas, the Regional Development Council (RDC) of Western Visayas approved the P15-billion proposed project.
The railway system will connect the cities of Iloilo and Roxas spanning 170 kilometers and will include access routes to the international port in Iloilo City and airport in Cabatuan town in Iloilo.
The project is the first phase in the revival of the Panay railway system. The second phase involves reviving the railway system between Roxas City to Caticlan in Aklan, the jump-off point to Boracay Island.
Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, chair of the RDC’s infrastructure development committee, earlier said the project has been endorsed by government units of Roxas and Iloilo cities, the provinces of Capiz and Iloilo and the municipal governments of areas along the railway system.
Ro-Ann Bacal, regional director of the National Economic and Development Authority, said the revival of the railway system will significantly increase access to goods and services and help ease traffic on national highways.
Jerry Adevoso, president of Panay Railways Inc. (PRI) which is pushing for the project, said DOTC studies have shown that the project is economically feasible.
The project, he said, could be put under the public-private partnership scheme of the Aquino administration.
“Private, local or foreign investors will foot the entire bill. No government funds, loans, guarantees or subsidies are being required,” Adevoso told the Inquirer in a phone interview on Thursday.
He said at least three foreign and one local investor have given unsolicited offers to invest in the project.
“If there is an investor, what is objectionable about this? And why can’t it be done immediately?” Adevoso said.
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