MANILA - Presidential candidate Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. pledged on Wednesday to revive the 'Bicol Express' train route between Manila and the Bicol Region if he wins in the May elections.
In a statement, the camp of Marcos said this is in line with his aim to strengthen the country's mass transport system.
"Madalas nating marinig noon ang salitang ‘Bicol Express’ patungkol sa mga tren na bumibyahe sa rehiyon. Sa paglipas ng panahon ay naging palasak na lang ang katagang ito na tumutukoy sa pangunahing sistema ng transportasyon na ngayon ay bilang isang masarap na pagkain ng mga Bicolano,” Marcos was quoted to have said in the statement.
“Ibabalik natin ang Bicol Express ng higit na maayos at epektibo sa panahon ng ating panunungkulan."
Marcos added that the push to rehabilitate the nearly 500 kilometer-long train route is also part of ensuring continuity in President Rodrigo Duterte's 'Build, Build, Build' program.
The election survey frontrunner said he is open to talks with big companies to finance the project via Public-Private Partnership (PPP).
The Philippine National Railways' "Bicol Express" train ran between the 1930s to the early 2000s, until it was closed in 2006 due to damage from Typhoon Reming and Typhoon Milenyo.
Although it was reopened in 2011, the train route's operations would repeatedly be suspended until the closure of its Calamba-Sipocot route.
There are at least two projects seeking to revive the "Bicol Express" train route -- the PNR South Long Haul or PNR Bicol project, and the southern section of the North-South Commuter Railway.
The Philippine News Agency reported last month that construction of PNR Bicol's 380-km first package between Calamba, Laguna to Daraga, Albay was set to begin in the first quarter of 2022. It is expected to be completed by 2024, while the entire PNR Bicol line between Manila and Albay is scheduled to be operational by 2027.
The Department of Transportation awarded the P142 billion contract for PNR Bicol Package 1 to a joint venture between China Railway Group Ltd., China Railway No. 3 Engineering Group Co. Ltd., and China Railway Engineering Consulting Group Co. Ltd.
Manila seeks to fund the project through an Official Development Assistance loan from China.
- With a report from Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News