Philippines signs contracts for country’s ‘largest railway line’

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 06 2022 12:42 PM | Updated as of Oct 06 2022 06:17 PM

 Artist's rendering of one of the stations of the ADB-funded South Commuter Railway. Handout
Artist's rendering of one of the stations of the ADB-funded South Commuter Railway. Handout

CALAMBA, Laguna — (UPDATE) The Philippines signed with the Asian Development Bank on Thursday contracts for the construction of a railway project in Southern and Central Luzon which is touted as the country’s “largest railway line.”

The ADB said it signed four civil works contracts totaling $1.87 billion for the South Commuter Railway Project (SCRP). 

The SCRP is part of the 147-kilometer North-South Commuter Railway Project, which will have 35 stations and 3 depots, and is expected to cut travel time from Calamba, Laguna to the Clark International Airport to less than 2 hours, Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista said.

"The project, which will lay nearly 55 kilometers of railway segment to connect Metro Manila with Laguna province, is being financed with $4.3 billion in loans approved by ADB in June 2022," the multilateral lender said.

The SCRP, which will have 18 stations, will provide affordable, safe, and fast public transport, help ease road traffic congestion, and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, ADB said. 

It will also connect to the future Metro Manila Subway system.

“This project will open tremendous opportunities for economic integration across Metro Manila and neighboring provinces and create a significant positive impact on the local economy,” said ADB Deputy Director General for Southeast Asia Winfried Wicklein during the contract signing ceremony held at the Jose Rizal Monument in Calamba City.

“This ambitious railway project will bring back the culture of railway in the Philippines,” Bautista said.

It will provide a “safe, affordable and convenient transport for Filipinos while accelerating our economic rebound,” Bautista added.

The railway project is expected to cater to 600,000 passengers daily, according to data from the Department of Transportation (DOTr).

Construction will begin in February 2023, while full operations are expected to start in 2029.

Some 110,000 direct and indirect jobs will be generated from this project, the Transportation chief said.

The project will be funded by loans from the ADB and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the construction of the project shows that his administration is “serious about pursuing large infrastructure structures [sic] to foster growth… despite the shocks the world situation has brought to the Philippines.”

“We welcome this development at the time when we are going… full speed ahead towards modernization and our transport system and we are reclaiming our lives from the COVID-19 pandemic. This is what all of this truly means,” he said.

“I believe that the tracks that we will be laying down here will lead us to that bright future we have all aspired,” he said.

ADB’S BIGGEST INFRASTRUCTURE FINANCING PROJECT

Wicklein underscored that the Philippines’ North-South Commuter Railway is “largest, biggest infrastructure project in the history of the ADB financing.”

“Great quantities of money come with great responsibility,” he told Marcos and other officials who were present at the event.

“It is the collective responsibility of all of us that this really happens… We must deliver this project at high quality and within budget,” he said.

The ADB has also allocated provisions for the relocation of residents who may be displaced due to the construction of the railway, said Philippine National Railways General Manager Jeremy Regino.

“These are normal challenges we will be facing,” Regino said.

“Pinag-aaralan po natin ito and with the support of our local government units, we are confident we will be able to surpass these challenges,” he said.

The Philippines, under Marcos Jr., has been pushing to continue the previous administration’s massive infrastructure program.

Earlier this week, Marcos attended the groundbreaking ceremony for sections of the Metro Manila Subway, the Philippines’ first underground railway system.

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