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Manila-Clark bullet train: Coming soon?

Rappler.com
The project seems a long shot since it remains in the early stages of project evaluation and has a long way to go before it reaches the bidding phase

MANILA, Philippines – Pangilinan-led Metro Pacific Investment Corp. (MPIC) is still keen on undertaking the government’s bullet train project between Manila and Clark should it push through. 

Asked to respond to a report that the government is studying how to proceed with the rail project meant to boost Clark’s chances as alternative or main gateway, MPIC Vice President for Corporate Communications Melody del Rosario said they are still keen on undertaking the project but have not submitted any proposal to the government. 

“We’ve always been interested in that (bullet train project). We have expressed our interest. We want to participate if government will bid it out,” del Rosario said.

However, the project seems a long shot since it remains in the early stages of project evaluation and has a long way to go before it reaches the bidding phase.

Only when the government has decided on its airport strategy — whether Clark will become the main in place of, or alternative international airport to, congested Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila — will the rail project proceed. 

Approvals

Officials have long said they intend to build a bullet train system, similar to Japan and China. 

In an Apri 18 story, Manila Bulletin said the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said the proposed bullet train will be constructed on the North Luzon Luzon Expressway (NLEx). 

MPIC unit, Manila North Tollways Corporation (MNTC) operates and maintains NLEx. 

The bullet train will reportedly have 3 stops – Trinoma or SM North in Quezon City; Dimasalang or the University of Santo Tomas in Manila; and Buendia Avenue in Makati City.

However, NEDA Infrastructure Staff Director Librado F. Quitoriano said the agency has not received any related proposal from the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC), which is the project proponent. 

Quitoriano said the project has not even been mentioned in the last Infrastructure Committee (Infracom) meeting last April 12. The DOTC, he said, could present its plans in the next Infracom meeting which is still being set as of this article’s posting. 

The NEDA official also said the agency knows that there is a project known as “Airport Express Rail” but have not been furnished project details.

Wala pa sa NEDA yung documents. DOTC will be the one to submit that to NEDA because we do not receive direct proposals from the private sector,” Quitoriano said.

Constructing a bullet train was already proposed before but it was scrapped due to technical concerns. The initial plan was for the bullet train to run parallel the Philippine National Railways (PNR).

The project remains under the “evaluation” stage,” Transportation Undersecretary for planning Rene Limcaoco told Rappler when asked how the project is moving along. 

Decisions

Part of the evaluation process is to choose whether the proposed rail will use the old PNR (Philippine National Railway) alignment or the NLEx alignment to connect Metro Manila to Clark.  

Most parts of the PNR alignment are currently the same tracks meant for the scuttled roll out of the Northrail project, which was hounded by legal and regulatory issues. The ongoing territorial dispute between the Philippines and China, which won the Northrail project under the Arroyo administration, has further dampened the chances of the key rail project originally designed to connect Manila and Clark. 

A rail project between the two gateways is crucial to make the airport in Clark, Pampanga more accessible, and for airlines to boost their domestic and international operations in Clark airport.  

Investors are urging the government to finally decide on a plan to develop the Clark airport, saying the delay has affected their businesses in the area. – Rappler.com

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