By Ding Cervantes Updated January 26, 2009 12:00 AM
[ philstar.com ]
MABALACAT, Pampanga – Vice President Noli de Castro admitted yesterday that the 83-kilometer Caloocan-to-Clark railway project or Northrail will not be finished within the term of President Arroyo.
He said only the stretch from Caloocan City to Malolos, Bulacan will likely be completed by 2010.
De Castro, however, said the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), which he chairs, will push through with the relocation of settlers along the old railroad tracks of the Philippine National Railways up to Pampanga, regardless of delays in the project.
Earlier, North Luzon Railways Corp. president Edgardo Pamintuan, who was appointed to his post in August last year, said the President had wanted the entire Northrail finished before her term ends next year.
Phase 1 of the project, costing about $503 million, spans 32.5 kilometers from Caloocan City to Malolos, Bulacan, while Phase 2, whose cost has not been fully determined, extends over 50 kilometers from Malolos to the Clark Freeport.
De Castro said the Northrail’s Bulacan segment “is about to go on full blast.”
The Northrail project is part of a plan to fully convert the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport at Clark into the country’s premiere international gateway.
De Castro, who was here yesterday to inaugurate the P60-billion, low-cost housing project of Xevera Corp., inspected three resettlement sites for the families displaced by the Northrail project in San Fernando, Angeles City and Mabalacat, all in Pampanga.
The China National Machinery and Equipment Corp. abandoned the project in February last year amid controversies on additional cost and changes in the design, but resumed work this month following dialogues with Northrail officials in Beijing and Manila.
Pamintuan earlier had blamed officials of the North Luzon Railways Corp. for delays in the project, which is largely funded by a loan from the Chinese Export-Import Bank.