Why Senate committee wants PNR extended for 25 years

By Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 06 2014 04:29 PM | Updated as of May 07 2014 12:29 AM

MANILA - Sen. Cynthia Villar, chairperson of the Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises, today filed the committee report recommending the 25-year extension of the Philippine National Railways (PNR), renewable for another 25 years.

PNR, the state-owned agency that operates the railway system running in Luzon, is only given until June 19 this year to operate under Republic Act 4156.

Committee Report No. 22 recommends amending its charter and extending its operation by 25 years, renewable for another 25 years.

"As an archipelagic country, we require efficient and safe transport networks-both in land and on the sea. We need a seamless transport system to connect our main islands of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, plus the 7,100 more islands we have as well as to transport passengers and goods via freight movement," Villar said.

"Instead of giving PNR another 50 years outright, we are extending it to 25 years but renewable for another 25 years so that we can review its performance," she added.

Compared to jeepneys and buses that charge P2 per kilometer, PNR provides the cheapest mode of transportation to people by charging only 71 centavos per kilometer, Villar noted.

"We are extending the operation of PNR because we want to provide our people in the lowest-income bracket a transport system that they can afford," she added.

Villar said PNR should work to develop rail connectivity in the country, as practiced in developed countries like USA, Japan, Malaysia, India, and China.

"Sa atin, we discovered na umikli pa ang route kilometers ng PNR. The Philippines has a total of 300,000 route kilometers. In its heyday during the 1970s, so to speak, PNR is running on 1,100 route kilometers (from La Union to Legaspi). Now, it is down to only 85 route kilometers (from Tutuban to Sta. Rosa and from Naga to Sipocot)," she said.

Last year, Villar said about 20 million passengers or 55,400 commuters daily were serviced by PNR. This year, between 80,000 to 100,000 passengers per day use the PNR trains.

Presently, PNR operates commuter lines from Tutuban to Sta. Rosa, Laguna (covering 23 stations over a stretch of 50 kilometers) and from Naga to Sipocot (with route length of 35 kilometers).

The long-distance service to Legaspi, Bicol was suspended in October 2012, because of damages to bridges due to typhoons. But according to PNR, they plan to resume the service by September 2014 with a test run by next month.