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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Solon proposes Bicol Express modernization using Maharlika funds

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A party-list congressman has renewed his proposal that part of the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) be invested in reconstructing and modernizing the Bicol Express rail system “to help kick-start the revival  of the Philippines’ rail industry.”

Rep. Brian Raymund Yamsuan of Bicol Saro party-list group said the reconstruction of the Philippine National Railways (PNR)’ Bicol Express into a modern, world-class train system will complement the on-going North- South Commuter Railway (NSCR) project, leading to a seamless interconnection of Luzon’s major economic hubs.

“The Maharlika fund  can get the Bicol Express back on track and be a key element in the rebirth of a robust rail sector in the country,” said Yamsuan, a long-time advocate of the revival of the once-famed Bicol Express rail line.

“Investing in reconstructing the legendary Bicol Express means accelerating  South Luzon’s  economic growth. It means creating  tens of thousands of jobs and livelihood opportunities. It promotes  a mass transport system  that  is fast, efficient, affordable, emits less air pollution and reduces traffic congestion,” he added.

Citing a study done by the World Bank, Yamsuan said trains, whether diesel- or electric-powered, are more energy efficient and generate lower emissions per passenger and per ton of goods than almost all other vehicles on the road.

He also cited a separate study by the International Energy Agency (IEA),  which found that while rail accounts for 8 percent of the world’s motorized passenger movement and 7 percent of freight transport,  it uses just 2 percent of the world’s transport energy demand.

Yamsuan raised anew his proposal  following the inaugural board meeting last week of the Maharlika Investment Corporation (MIC), which is tasked to govern and manage the MIF.

According to a statement by the Department of Finance (DOF), the meeting discussed the fund’s capitalization and potential sectors for investment, which include infrastructure; oil, gas, and power; agroforestry industrial urbanization; mineral processing; tourism; transportation; and aerospace and aviation.

The revival of the  Bicol Express, known as the South Long Haul Project, could be the MIF’s major investment in the transportation sector as  it is among the infrastructure flagship projects of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., Yamsuan said.

Yamsuan earlier lauded the reopening of the PNR’s  train trips between Naga City in Camarines Sur and Legazpi City in Albay, as he expressed the hope that this positive development would later lead to the full operation of the Bicol Express line.

“We cannot just start and end with the NSCR in implementing long-haul rail projects and leave the southernmost part of Luzon with a patched-up rail system.  Reviving our rail industry should include reconstructing and modernizing  Southeast Asia’s oldest train service, which is  the Bicol Express,” Yamsuan said.

The NSCR connects Bulacan to the Clark International Airport in Pampanga in the north and Metro Manila and Laguna in the south, while the first phase of the South Long Haul Project connects Laguna to several towns in  Quezon province  and  the Bicol provinces of Camarines Sur and Albay.

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