South rail project on hold
By Mar S. Arguelles LEGAZPI CITY --- Albay House Representative Joey S. Salceda yesterday said that the P171B South Line project would still be pursued but in a different project implementation mode. Salceda was reacting to a news report that claims that the multi-billion peso South Line project of the Philippine National Railway (PNR-Bicol South Line) was stricken out of the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects due to funding and investment problems. DOTr’s PPP projects under implementation but placed under review and face possible removal from the PPP pipeline include the P171B PNR South Line, the P75B MAIAproject, and the P19B Davao Sasa project. Salceda in an interview said the South Line railway project would remain a priority investment project of the national government. “Instead of PPP, it would be procured as direct expenditures of the national government,” Salceda said. According to Salceda, under the direct expenditures scheme, the national government and Congress will find ways to look for the needed financing to fund the implementation of the railway project. The South Railway Project had been approved by the Bicol Regional Development Council in 2015 and was endorsed to the National Economic Development Authority Interagency Coordinating Committee for PPP. The NEDA Board approved the project on February 16, 2015, for public-private partnership scheme. The South Railway project aims to revive the 653-kilometer railway system from Manila-Legazpi and expanded to Matnog, Sorsogon. The project, once implemented, was hoped to be completed and operational by 2021. Its operationalization will improve connectivity and efficiency among urban centers, regional growth hubs and thus increase productivity in the industry, services and agriculture sectors. As for the Bicol International Airport project in Barangay Alobo, Daraga Albay, Salceda said that following the completion of the 2.5-kilometer airport runway, the project under Phase 2B that costs P1.4B for the construction of the passenger terminal building has been awarded last February for civil works to start soon. Salceda said the international airport project is expected to be completed by the 1st Quarter of 2020.