Naga PNR Grand Station in Pili?

A year and a half or so ago, then DOTr for Rails USec Cesar Chavez together with then newly minted PNR GM Jun Magno hosted a “PNR Development and Consultation Meeting” held at Midas Hotel in Manila. In attendance were the Governors of Cam. Norte and Albay, and some Congressmen and City Mayors, from all over Bicol Region. Cam. Sur Governor and the City Mayor of Naga are noticeably absent. USec Chaves presented PNR’s comprehensive plan for a new “standard gauge rail” and the proposed realignment of the old railway from Camarines Norte down to Legaspi City.

USec Chavez further explained that said proposed realigned railway is expected to bypass most of the present line with informal settlers occupying its Right-Of-Way (R.O.W.). This is to expedite construction, he said. He showed a “Google satellite map” where the proposed new railway construction project will be realigned. He explained that a tri-modal Grand Station complete with township and business establishments would be established also for each province.

This was when the hell broke loose…

A comedic scuffling erupted as to where the realigned railway will be relocated as each attendee (LGU officials are tapped to assist in the acquisition of the new R.O.W.) firmly wanted to have it in their preferred route and the grand station constructed also to where their “equitable interest is” (whatever it means).

Just before this meeting started, I introduced myself to the body as the duly designated representative of Cong. Gabby Bordado of the 3rd District of Cam. Sur. As such, I expounded, that “all issues, opinion and recommendation I raise in regards to this particular meeting are one and the same as Cong Gabby’s”, which was duly noted and approved by the presiding officer.

Cong Gabby who was indispensable in his other important appointment, asked me to represent him with emphasis to remain steadfast come hell or high water on his unyielding perspective on the Grand Station issue—that it should be located in Naga City—the center of commerce and trade industry in the whole province, and where all other major economic activities converge. Besides, it is most appropriate site for such a station because geographically, Naga City is situated at the center of the province, what more can anyone asks for?

After initial but lengthy deliberations by concerned stakeholders on the proposed relocation of railway in Legaspi City and Albay province, no conclusion or even near agreement had been reached. It was decided that further consultation would be held later for that portion of the railway.

Discussion then shifted to Naga City and Camarines Sur. USec Chavez mentioned that the proposed realigned railway would bypass the existing lines in Brgy.Triangolo, the old Naga Station and Panganiban to Concepcion Pequena—all inside Naga City proper. Instead, a new one will be constructed from the still undetermined starting point in Milaor and will go straight to Pili, Cam Sur. The reason for this, according to PNR is that these mentioned sections of the railway in Naga City are packed with informal settlers, which will inevitably delay the railway project.

At this juncture, I expressed to the panel my opinion in regards to this ambiguous issue. Although I agreed that realignment of the railway in Naga City is deemed necessary in light of the reality of the “permanent informal settlers” occupying the R.O.W. in the railway sections just mentioned, the grand station should still be built within the perimeter of Naga City. Accessibility and convenience to the considerable commuters of the City and nearby towns should be the primary consideration. This is Cong. Gabby’s unyielding position; I made it clear to everyone.

Although there is no definitive route yet as to where the proposed realigned railway will traverse in lieu of the old line in Naga City, it is an open-secret that a Congressman well connected to the powers that be is pushing hard to have the grand station built adjacent to the Provincial Capitol in Pili, Cam.Sur and farther away from Naga City. This conspicuous maneuvering is marked not only with political color but for high yield economic dividend as well to whoever will control the surrounding real states where the grand station will be located (it’s not rocket science!).

The fallacious argument that there is no other alternative and available location for the Grand Station in Naga City is a deliberate argument because open farmlands as seen in the “Google satellite map” adjoining the City proper are manifold and so apparent that I feel it would be rubbing it in to mention a few to the typhlotic planners of PNR.

The new China designed and funded “standard gauge” railway as immensely touted by this administration will start construction in the first quarter of next year. The final location of the Grand Station in Naga City remains in the hands of the PNR-China planners.

In light of this development, it is of paramount importance to all Nagaenos, particularly its City Government to fully support Congressman Gabby Bordado’s unwavering stance to have the Grand Station built in Naga City, and establish a modest sense of pride and rightful entitlement that the “Heart of Bicol” deserves.