Off track: Northrail timeline
September 1994 – President Fidel Ramos signed a memorandum of agreement with King Juan Carlos of Spain to build the Manila-to-Clark rail system.
August 22, 1995 - The North Luzon Railways Corp. (NLRC) was incorporated as a 100 percent-subsidiary of the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA).
February 7, 1996 – NLRC entered into an Engineering, Procurement and Construction Contract (EPRC) with the Spanish Railways Corporation.
August 14, 1998 – The EPRC contract was terminated after parties failed to agree on the Northrail funding.
September 1999 – The Investment Coordinating Committee (ICC) of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) approved the Manila-Clark Rapid Railway System, with Phase I covering the railway system from Caloocan to Calumpit, Bulacan. The Obuchi Fund from the Japan Bank of International Cooperation (JBIC) was eyed as the source of funds.
November 2000 – As a requirement of the JBIC, relocation of squatters in Caloocan began.
February 2001 – A presidential directive halted the demolition and relocation activities. The JBIC loan did not materialize.
September 14, 2002 – The Northrail project was included in the eight-point agenda of President Arroyo. After a series of talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between NorthRail and China National Machinery and Equipment Group (CNMEG) to update the alignment from Caloocan to Malolos.
August 5, 2003 – The NEDA-ICC approved the NorthRail Project Phase 1 Section 1 (Caloocan to Malolos) amounting to $503.04 million.
February 26, 2004 – Finance Secretary Juanita Amatong signed a Buyer Credit Loan Agreement (BCLA) with the Export-Import Bank of China, which allotted US$400-million for the North Rail Project. The Philippine government, through BCDA and NLRC, would shoulder $107 million of the costs.
September 29, 2004 – NRLC made the first drawdown of $150 million.
November 8, 2004 – In his privilege speech, Sen. Aquilino ‘Nene’ Pimentel asked the Senate to delve into two issues concerning Northrail: the feasibility of relocating 40,000 residents in the railroad tracks in areas covered by the project and alleged overpricing of the NLRC-CNMEG contract.
November 2004-February 2005 – Senate committees on Urban Planning, Housing and Resettlement, Finance and Local Government, led by Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, conducted four public hearings which looked into the relocation of 40, 000 occupants in railroad tracks and alleged price-padding in the Northrail contract.
February 14, 2005 – Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, in his privilege speech, urged the Senate to probe the alleged overpricing and legal loopholes of the contract between NLRC and CNMEG.
June 15, 2005 – Senate committees on Urban Planning, Housing and Resettlement, Finance and Local Government submitted their report where they recommended the termination of hearings on issues of relocation following findings that resettlement funds, amounting to P6.6 billion, and relocation sites are available. They also pushed for the inquiry into the alleged anomalous Northrail contract by proper Senate committees.
July 25, 2005 – Oliver Lozano included the Northrail project in his amended impeachment complaint against Arroyo.
September 21-23, 2005 - The Senate, led by Senate President Franklin Drilon, issued invitations to members of the Executive Department to appear in a public hearing on the Northrail project.
September 28, 2005 – Arroyo issued EO 464, which required department heads to seek executive permission first before appearing in Senate hearings. It also gave teeth to executive privilege. On the same day, the Senate received a response from Executive Sec. Eduardo Ermita where he said that the officials invited for the hearing on Northrail have to decline because they don’t have the President’s consent.
September 29, 2005 – A study by the UP Law Center, commissioned by Drilon, recommended the cancellation of the contract between NLRC and CEGM following the lack of competitive bidding. The study also posed doubts on the legality of the BCLA as it does not have the concurrence of the Monetary Board.
October 11, 2005 – The League of Urban Poor for Action (Lupa)-Bulacan chapter and lawyers from the University of the Philippines Law Center asked the Supreme Court to nullify the BCLA and the NLRTC-CEGM contract. The Senate also filed a petition questioning the constitutionality of E0 464, which led to the suspension of the hearings on Northrail following the need of department officials to seek the President’s consent first before testifying in Senate inquiries.
October 20, 2005 – The Supreme Court junked the petition of Lupa-Bulacan and UP Law Center, citing its lack of jurisdiction to try cases. Lead counsel for petitioners, Harry Roque, took the case to Makati RTC.
March 2006 – The Makati RTC resolved to hold preliminary hearings on the petition filed by Roque et al, but no hearings were held after the Philippine government filed a petition which argued that Roque’s group has no legal capacity to sue and the court has no jurisdiction to hear the case.
April 20, 2006 – The Supreme Court struck down portions of E0 464 where presidential consent is required for appearances in Senate hearings.
June 26, 2006 – Alleged corruption in the Northrail project was included in the second impeachment raps filed against Arroyo.
August 2006 – The Chinese government increased the loan to $1 billion to extend NorthRail to Clark Freeport in Pampanga, the seat of Diosdado Macapagal International Airport.
May 15, 2007 - Judge Cesar Santamaria of Makati RTC Branch 45 issued an omnibus order that upheld the petition of Lupa-Bulacan and lawyers from UP Law Center.
October 2007 – NLRC, under its head Arsenio Bartolome III, started design and civil works in Northrail.
November 8, 2007 – Enrile said that after his privilege speech in 2005 where he raised allegations of overpricing in the NLRC-CNMEG contract, Speaker Jose de Venecia pleaded him not to “rock the boat” for the “good of the country.”
November 20, 2007 – Senate Minority Leader Aquilino ‘Nene’ Pimentel filed Resolution 210, which called for the reopening of the Senate inquiry into the Northrail project.
February 7, 2008 – The alleged overpricing in Northrail and Southrail, a $923 million-railway rehabilitation project funded also by China, came up in the testimony of Rodolfo ‘Jun’ Lozada Jr. in a Senate hearing on the now botched $329 million-NBN-ZTE deal.
February 2008 – The NLRC filed a motion for reconsideration at the Makati RTC where Judge Santamaria earlier junked twin petitions of the government that sought for the dismissal of the case filed by Lupa-Bulacan and UP Law Center.
May 14, 2008 – The National Housing Authority asked the government for a P2 billion-relocation fund for the 18,000 people occupying Pampanga, which is part of the Phase II of Northrail. Phase II of Northrail covers 58 kms. from Malolos to Pampanga.
May 15, 2008 – The Makati Regional Trial Court denied the motion for reconsideration filed by the Philippine government and CNMEG which asked for the dismissal of the petition filed by Lupa-Bulacan and UP Law Center and also questioned the jurisdiction of the regional court to hear the said case.
July 1, 2008 – NLRC president Edgardo Pamintuan said that CNMEG “demobilized” the Northrail project over differences on engineering and construction standards.
July 4, 2008 –Roque, one of the UP lawyers who sought the nullification of the loan and contract, said that CNMEG backed out of Northrail due to $150 million-worth of bribes demanded by local officials. Roque added that one official allegedly pocketed P500 million.
July 10, 2008 – Pamintuan retracted his earlier statement that CNMEG dropped the Northrail project, adding that the Chinese company could not just start their work because the NLRC has not yet fulfilled CNMEG’s order to clear eight old railway bridges. He ordered the demolition of the said railway systems in 45 days.
July 11, 2008 – The NLRC started its review of the Northrail contract following talks on the resumption of the Northrail project –research by Purple Romero