LEGAZPI CITY—Albay, together with the whole Bicol region, has welcomed Ayala Corp.’s interest in the P170.7-billion Philippine Railways South Line project, which will cut travel time from Manila to this city by five to six hours and pave the way for more investments into the area.

The proposed 653-kilometer South Railways project was approved by the National Economic Development Authority board chaired by President Aquino on Feb. 16 this year under the public-private partnership scheme.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda, who chairs the Bicol Regional Development Council, said the South rail line was among the most monumental development projects of the Aquino administration and was seen to unlock the huge potential of Bicol, particularly that of Albay, the regional center and hub.

Ayala Corp.’s infrastructure unit recently said it intended to bid for the P170.7-billion ($3.8 billion) government railway project and had started talks with potential partners.

A report said AC Infrastructure Holdings Corp. has not identified its potential partners and the government has yet to set a specific date for the tender, which it said would likely be within the year.

Salceda, who also chairs the Luzon Area Development Coordinating Council, has been “working relentlessly with the PPP Center, Department of Transportation and Communication, Neda and Philippine National Railways to ensure the South Railway Project will be prioritized.”

The South Railways line will complement the Bicol International Airport in Daraga town, which is targeted to be completed and operationalized in two years. The BIA and South Railways transport is a package that should attract a deluge of private investment into Albay, and the whole of the Bicol Region, said Salceda.

“By this, our ‘Albay Boom’ economic battle cry will surely now be realized,” he said.

The South Railways line is a component of the North-South Railway master plan, which includes the North-South Commuter Railway project, estimated at P117.3 billion and the P170-billion North-South Railway Project.

“To us, it is the most interesting one out of those big ticket projects. If and when that is bidded out, it is something that we would like to take a serious look at,” said AC Infrastructure president John Eric Francia said earlier.

The project involves rehabilitating the old railway line between Manila and Albay and adding new additional lines.