Source: BusinessWorld

Western Visayas economic planners endorse P23-B expanded railway project

ILOILO CITY — The Regional Development Council (RDC) of Western Visayas has approved the expanded Panay railway rehabilitation project, and is set to endorse it to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), an RDC official said here recently.

The project, which was initially supposed to just rehabilitate the existing Panay railway system, now aims to extend the line in order to shorten travel time on the island.

Upon completion in 2015, the line will link Iloilo City to Caticlan, gateway to Boracay Island.

Project cost has also increased to P23 billion from the original P16 billion due to the extension.

The RDC how hopes the National Government will include the project in its list of priority projects to be undertaken under the public-private partnership program.

The original proposal, which was approved by regional planners and offered under the build-operate-transfer scheme in 2009, was to rehabilitate the 117-kilometer Iloilo-Roxas (Capiz) line.

Erlinda B. Chua, officer-in-charge of the NEDA-Western Visayas Project Monitoring and Evaluation Division, said in a phone interview that the revised proposal was approved by the RDC during its quarterly meeting last April 16.

Ms. Chua said the project is now being evaluated again by NEDA’s Investment Coordination Committee, which will decide whether to endorse it to the NEDA Board — which is led by President Benigno S. C. Aquino III — for final approval, due to the changes in design and mode of implementation.

“At present, it is under review by the Investment Coordination Committee. After NEDA’s final approval, it will be endorsed to the Department of Transportation and Communications for publication of the project bidding [details],” she added.

Cesar S. Capellan, Panay Railways, Inc. (PRI) officer-in-charge, said the new plan has two phases.

The first phase covers the rehabilitation of the 117-kilometer line from Iloilo City to Roxas City at a cost of P16 billion.

The P7-billion second phase involves the extension of the line from Roxas City to Caticlan port.

New routes will be opened from Ungka, Jaro to the new Iloilo airport in Cabatuan-Sta. Barbara and from Ungka, Jaro to Loboc International Port.

Its main terminals will be in Jaro, Iloilo City; Passi City, Iloilo; as well as Dao, Capiz and Brgy. Lauan, Roxas City. Secondary terminals will be in Sta. Barbara, New Lucena, Pototan, Dueñas, all in Iloilo and in Dumarao, Capiz.

Trains will stop for 10 minutes at each terminal to load and unload passengers.

The railway is seen to cut travel time from Iloilo to Roxas City to one hour from the usual four hours on board a bus or passenger van.

“The new railway system is better than the previous one because it will be using a combination of locomotive engine with the backup of an electric motor,” Mr. Capellan said. “It will have air-conditioned coaches that can accommodate 200 passengers per coach,” he added.

Mr. Capellan said five companies from South Korea, Japan, China and Canada and Europe have expressed interest in participating in the first phase of the project.

“If we push through, we can see the whole project operational by 2015,” he said.

At the same time, Mr. Capellan said PRI has arranged with local government units to provide financial assistance to families who will be displaced by the project. There are about 6,000 houses along the tracks from Iloilo to Roxas City that will be affected by the project.

“Likewise, we have tapped the Gawad Kalinga villages to accommodate the relocatees [sic],” Mr. Capellan added. — Francis Allan L. Angelo

Publish on May 10, 2011