The Philippines is implementing big-ticket railway projects to ease its longstanding traffic congestion problems, especially in the capital city, Metro Manila and surrounding provinces.
The country’s president, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., says that the railway transportation system “offers great potential as they continue to be the cheapest way of transporting goods and passengers” as he vows to carry on his predecessor’s, Mr Rodrigo Duterte’s Build Build Build program. “We must keep the momentum and aspire to build better more”, he adds.
According to the International Trade Administration, “The Philippines lags many neighbouring countries in infrastructure development and is notorious for challenging traffic conditions, long commutes, under capacity in international airports, and port congestion.”
For most Filipinos, particularly those living in urban areas, severe traffic jams and other inconveniences are a way of life.
The country’s infrastructure woes are linked to its large-scale rural-to-urban migration. Many Filipinos move from the countryside to the cities to look for jobs and better opportunities, resulting in severe traffic gridlock that causes long commuter times and delays in transporting goods and services.
The former president Duterte’s Build Build Build program allotted up to 9 Philippine pesos to infrastructure spending, aiming to usher the country into the golden age of infrastructure.
These infrastructures include building roads, bridges, and transportation systems until his term ends in 2022. The former president also promised that the massive infrastructure investment would create jobs and improve the quality of life for many Filipinos.
The Marcos administration sought to improve Filipinos’ commuting times and transportation systems by investing in the rail system. During his first state of the nation address, he announced a renewed focus on developing the country’s rail under his watch.
Specifically, Marcos committed to complete all ongoing projects that started during the previous administration, with a price tag of Php 1.9 trillion or US$34.3 billion.
The current head of state also pledged to “modernising existing airports and seaports, as that “will maximise our strategic location in the Pacific and connect our many islands.”
International Rail Journal lists the ongoing rail projects in the country.
- The 102km Mindanao Railway, Panay Railway and Cebu Railway, major economic regions in the country, can be integrated as a vital part of the transport system, and
- The North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR), spanning 147 km from Clark to Calamba, will service the country’s most populated region, particularly the Metro Manila commuters and those from Central Luzon to the CALABARZON areas, which includes several provinces south of Metro Manila.
According to The Diplomat article “The Revival of Rail Infrastructure in the Philippines,” the project cost is US$14.2 billion. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will fund half of the cost through loans, which according to the bank, represent the most significant infrastructure financing in Asia and the Pacific. The other half of the funding will come from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
The project will help ease commuting in the most populated part of the country, particularly in Metro Manila which, for nearly two decades, its mass transit consisting of three lines has struggled with service and maintenance issues, the article says.
The article also mentions another ambitious rail project, the Metro Manila Subway, costing Php 355 billion pesos (US$6.3 billion). The mega-project dubbed the “Project of the Century” is also financed by JICA and will significantly upgrade Manila’s urban transit system.
These major railway projects in the Philippines, supported by two organisations – the ADB and JICA, represent a massive contribution to the country’s infrastructure.
The article notes that although “China’s Belt and Road Initiative often grabs the headlines, Japan’s footprint regarding infrastructure financing in the region may be less noticeable but is often more significant”.
Due to an increasing number of motor vehicles in the country, rail transport in the Philippines is becoming a vital means of transportation for passengers and cargo in the country to reduce traffic congestion and link its key cities.
In the past meeting, this goal has been beleaguered with problems arising from deteriorating infrastructure to a lack of government funding. Hopefully, through the current rehabilitation and building efforts and the availability of funding partners, the country will have an efficient railway system that can spur its economic growth and development.
The Philippines is continuing to experience dynamic population growth, rural-urban migration and increasing economic opportunity. These future demand factors point to sustained and long-term infrastructure investment and development by the government of the Philippines and its partners.