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Salceda hopeful Duterte to OK South Railway project

By Mar S. Arguelles LEGAZPI CITY --- Albay House Representative Joey S. Salceda yesterday said he is hopeful that President Rodrigo Duterte would give his approval for the P285B South Line Railway project after the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has endorsed the project for implementation. NEDA recently announced that the multi-billion peso North-South Railway Project (NSRP) only needs President Duterte’s approval this month for the project to take off, according to Salceda. Salceda in a text message said the President would certainly approve the NEDA recommendation since this is a critical and central project of his administration. He said that the existing right of way, except for the Camalig to Matnog sections with informal settlers, would cost around P32B as Philippine government counterpart. Salceda in an interview said the South Line Railway project would remain a priority investment project of the national government. Salceda said he has personally discussed the project with NEDA Secretary Ernesto Pernia, and Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno where they agreed that the project would be among the milestone projects of the Duterte administration. The NSRP’s south line project would connect Metro Manila and Bicol Region. South Railway project aims to revive the 653 kilometer railway system from Manila-Legazpi to Matnog, Sorsogon routes. The project carries P285B in funding requirements and once implemented it is expected to be completed and operational by 2021. Salceda when asked about the difference in the project cost which was earlier pegged at P171B as endorsed by the Bicol Regional Development Council while the NEDA-endorsed cost was placed at P285B, he said that under the new project cost, the project would be using a standard gauge railroad tracks that could accommodate trains running 150kph or more while the P171B project cost is for a narrow gauge tracks where trains could run at only 75kph speed. Salceda said, “once the president approves the project, construction could start upon signing of the Exchange of Notes under the recent loan agreement during the recent the Philippine Chines Economic Minsters Conference.” The NSRP’s south line is to be financed through official development assistance (ODA) that will revive the Philippine National Railways (PNR) south line, the NEDA statement said. Salceda said under the project, the Tutuban-Los Banos would be financed by Japan while the Los Banos-Matnog, Sorsogon segment would be financed by China. Earlier, Salceda reacted to reports that the South Line project of the Philippine National Railway (PNR) was stricken out of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects due to funding and investment problems. DOTr PPP projects under implementation but was placed on review and faces removal from the PPP pipeline include: the P171Bn PNR South Line, the P75B Naia project, and the P19B Davao Sasa project. “Instead of PPP, it would be procured as direct expenditures of the national government,” Salceda said. 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 project once completed would improve connectivity and efficiency among urban centers, regional growth hubs thus increasing productivity in the industry, services and agriculture sectors.

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