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NorthRail project revised

by Jeremiah F. de Guzman
[ ] October 10, 2011

The Transportation Department is expanding the original NorthRail project all the way to Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark, Pampanga from the original stop in Mabalacat town.

Transportation Secretary Manuel Roxas said last week the NorthRail project with original funding from the Chinese government would be “re-configured” to a high-speed train that will end in Clark.

“While the government supports a rapid railway link to the north, we oppose the current contract, its technical specifications and its attendant arrangements,” Roxas said.

He said the current “problematic” rail project that runs 80 kilometers from Caloocan would be extended to a 90-km to 100-km long railway that will link Ninoy Aquino International Airport and DMIA in Clark Freeport.

“This time we will ensure that what gets built is as what was originally intended, in this case, a fast speed rail link whose target travel time for the 90-km stretch will be a reliable less than an hour,” he said.

The transport agency estimated that the rail project, dubbed as the Naia-Clark Express Rail Link, would reach P108 billion.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency, the department said, agreed to provide the feasibility study for the project.

“The reconfiguration will address all the numerous fatal deficiencies of the existing contract and we are hopeful of a successful outcome,” Roxas said

“We will insist on an experienced rail construction contractor,” he said, adding that another bidding would be conducted with conditions that payments would only be made after acceptance by the public.

Roxas said the local office of the NorthRail contractor Sinomach suspended operations due to the project cancellation.

“What they have accomplished is just one kilometer out of 90-km stretch. By no means are we tied to what has already been done,” he said.

The Transportation Department on Thursday announced a P500-billion, five-year infrastructure plan involving 16 key rail, airport and seaport projects under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.

The agency said it would build most of the projects with cheap funds, notably from official development assistance loans, a deviation from the so-called Public-Private Partnership program of the government.

Meanwhile, a new member in Roxas’ team joined the department last week, completing the transport chief’s team of four undersecretaries.

An agrarian reform undersecretary for two years, Efren Moncupa took oath last week as the new undersecretary for project implementation and external affairs. He replaced former undersecretary Aristotle Batuhan.

Roxas described him as an Ateneo Law standout and a seasoned lawyer in the private sector, especially in non-government organizations like Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement and Free Legal Assistance Group.

He joined Roxas’ team that includes Juju Lotilla for problem-solving, Rafael Santos for day-to-day regulatory affairs, and Timmy Limcaoco for capital expenditure planning, formulation and financing.

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