Informal settlers along ADB, JICA-backed rail project won't be left out in the cold--DOTr

Good news for informal settler families (ISFs) along the path of the North-South Rail project.

ADB, JICA logos (Wikipedia)

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) revealed during the House Committee on Appropriations' consideration of the agency’s proposed 2023 budget Tuesday, Sept. 13 that the particular ISFs will not only be relocated; they will also get monthly interim rental subsidy for 18 months.

DOTr Undersecretary for Rails Cesar Chavez told congressmen that the country’s loan agreement with Asian Development Bank (ADB) provides funds for relocation, a P3,000 to P10,000 rental subsidy, and payment for structures and plants that would be removed due to the project construction.

The multi-billion North-South Rail project, jointly funded by the ADB and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), is expected to be completed by 2028. Once finished, it will ferry hundreds of thousands of passenger from Clark, Pampanga to Bicol.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman and Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Zaldy Co expressed support for DOTr’s proposed 2023 outlay, which amounts to P167 billion.

Co particularly hailed the rail project, noting that Bicolanos like himself are anticipating the restoration of the efficient, affordable, and earth-friendly train rides between the region and Metro Manila.

“On a personal note, since I come from the Bicol Region, train systems like the South Rail project are of much interest to me and my constituents. It is our fervent hope that it will come to fruition under President Marcos’s leadership and under your capable hands, Sec. Jimmy,” said Co, referring to DOTr Secretary Jaime Bautista.

During the hearing, congressmen asked for copies of the loan agreement for the project, and the detailed plans for ISFs; traffic impact of the construction of the railway tracks, particularly the segment in Metro Manila; and the cost of continued construction delays.

DOTr officials said a multi-agency discussion on ISFs is ongoing with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), National Housing Authority (NHA), and the local government units (LGUs) through which the railway will pass.

“The pandemic has shown us that transportation, like food and health, are of utmost importance especially during a crisis. Moving people, products, and services by air, land or sea is equally vital in resolving any emergency and getting past it,” Co said.

Co noted that President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), has committed to pursue his predecessor’s massive infrastructure modernization program.

“ puts great importance on modernizing our transport systems, describing them as the cornerstone to the growth of agriculture, health, tourism, and the entire Philippine economy. In particular, the President noted that a modern and efficient train system has the greatest potential to deliver our economic growth goals and international environmental commitments,” said the appropriations panel head.