Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The North-South Railway will be bid out as one project, as the Duterte economic team prefers to drop recommendations by the past administration to split up the mammoth ₱171-billion deal.

“I think it’s better to keep it together,” National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director-General Ernesto Pernia told CNN Philippines on Tuesday.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) had initially proposed to split the North-South Railway project into two chunks: a 56-kilometer commuter line from Manila to Calamba, Laguna; and a 478-kilometer long-haul passenger line from Manila to Legazpi, Albay.

The North-South Railway was going to be bid out under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program. The DOTr contended the project was too big and too expensive to be feasible for investors.

The PPP Center had opposed the change, as the more profitable commuter line was meant to subsidise the long-haul line. Executive director Andre Palacios feared that, when taken separately, the commuter line would attract investor interest, but the much-needed long-haul line would be left unbuilt.

Pernia contended, though: “That was the old [DOTC]. We have a new [DOTr] now.”

When the NEDA Board meets after the State of the Nation Address to approve the government’s major infrastructure projects, he said the economic managers were planning to keep the North-South Railway deal intact.

The North-South Railway has been tagged by analysts as a crucial piece of infrastructure that could help decongest Manila and spread development to the provinces.

If successful, the government is planning 175 kilometers in extensions to the railway, with links in the north from Manila to Batangas City, Batangas and in the south from Legaspi to Matnog, Sorsogon.