Senate rushing extension of PNR charter

By Christina Mendez, The Philippine Star

Posted at May 01 2014 09:42 AM | Updated as of May 01 2014 05:43 PM

MANILA - The Senate is rushing the passage of a measure that will extend the charter of the 50-year-old Philippine National Railway (PNR), whose franchise will expire in June.

Sen. Cynthia Villar, chairman of the Senate committee on government corporations and public enterprises, said the Senate is rushing the passage of the measure so that PNR’s charter is extended before Congress adjourns sine die by June.

“We are filing the bill on May 5. If not, we cannot hope to finish this by the end of the month because that is the deadline,” Villar said.

Congress will resume session on Monday, until June 13. It goes on sine die adjournment from June 14 to July 27 in preparation for the President’s State of the Nation Address.

Upon instructions from Senate President Franklin Drilon, Villar hopes to sponsor the measure on May 6.

The Senate committee had a public hearing last Tuesday in a bid to speed up the extension of the charter of the PNR, which has in its pipeline two pending public-private partnership (PPP) projects under the Aquino administration.

Before coming out with the committee report, Villar directed the Bureau of Treasury to provide the Senate panel as soon as possible the review of the PNR’s expenses.

During the hearing, Villar lashed out at the officers of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) for not initiating efforts to work for the expansion of the PNR charter.

“I am also surprised why the DOTC seemed disinterested in renewing the franchise of the PNR,” she added.

Sen. Ralph Recto also lamented why the DOTC has not been pro-active about the need to extend the PNR’s charter now that its 50-year-old franchise is about to expire.

“We started 101 kilometers from La Union to Legaspi, now you are only operating from Tutuban to Sta. Rosa. What happened? It would appear that PNR is a failure, 50 years since 1964,” Recto said.

Huge debts, shelved projects

Citing records, Recto noted that the PNR has an outstanding liability of P22 billion. The PNR gets P500-million subsidy per year from the Bureau of Treasury. “Otherwise, even their operations are double their revenues.”

Records show the PNR’s total asset at P52.8 billion, with P26 billion liability for 2013.