PPP can get 'Bicol Express' off the ground during Marcos admin--Yamsuan

At a glance

  • Bicol Saro Party-list Rep. Brian Raymund Yamsuan is urging the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to pursue the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) route in implementing the revival and modernization ofthe "Bicol Express".

FB_IMG_1683005450444.jpgBicol Saro Party-list Rep. Brian Raymund Yamsuan (Facebook)






Why wait on China on the "Bicol Express" project if there's a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) option? 

Bicol Saro Party-list Rep. Brian Raymund Yamsuan is urging the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to pursue this route in implementing the revival and modernization of  the Bicol Express--the once-famed rail line of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) that ran from Manila to Albay.  

Although Yamsuan received assurance from Department of Transportation (DOTr) Undersecretary for Railways Cesar Chavez that the revival of the PNR’s South Long Haul Project remains a priority project, China, the supposed fiinancial backer of the project, hasn't been able to give clear direction as to its continued funding. 

Yamsuan said that by tapping the PPP mode, the project can begin implementation under the Marcos administration.  

“Many Bicolanos await the day when the Bicol Express chugs back to life with fast, modern trains. Our dream is for the Bicol Express to provide affordable, safe and comfortable service for commuters and make Bicol’s economy the fastest growing in the country,” said the neophyte solon. 

The South Long Haul Project, which is included in the list of President Marcos' “Build Better More” infrastructure program, has a P3-billion allocation this year under the DOTr’s proposed budget.  

“Based on my discussions with Undersecretary Chavez, going the PPP route to implement the civil works aspect of the project is the best way to ensure that the Bicol Express project gets off the ground,” said Yamsuan. 

The Bicol Saro lawmaker said “The rebirth of the legendary rail line would create thousands of jobs and lead to the growth of  micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the Bicol region.” 

“When the Bicol Express is reconstructed and fully operational, every station it passes along its line will be a busy hub of economic activity. Micro and small enterprises will be sprouting in every station, providing jobs for tens of thousands of Bicolanos,” Yamsuan said.  

He said he agrees with Chavez’s “PPP modality” of tapping foreign funding institutions like the Asian Development Bank (ADB) or the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to provide financing for the electromechanical system of the project, while the government funds the right-of-way acquisition and rolling stock, and partners with the private sector for the civil works aspect of the project.  

Chavez earlier said that if the government cannot get a definitive commitment from the Export-Import Bank of China (China Eximbank) this year for the P142-billion loan to implement the first phase of the project, he would recommend that the Department of Finance (DOF) seek other foreign partners to employ PPP to get the project up and running.  

The government currently has an ongoing P14-billion management consultancy contract with China Railways Design Corporation (CRDC)  for  the project. But with China Eximbank giving no clear direction as to whether it would approve  the loan application for the project, Chavez said the DOTr would have to terminate the contract with CRDC to be able to look for other possible funding sources.   

Connecting Manila to Bicol, the Bicol Express is expected to reduce travel time between the two points from the current 14 to 18 hours to just 4 to 6 hours. The first package of the Bicol Express project spans 386 kilometers from Calamba, Laguna to Daraga, Albay.