Gov’t railway project pipeline seen at P1.7 trillion by 2022

THE GOVERNMENT is expected to have built up a railway project pipeline of P1.7 trillion by its last year in office in 2022, Transportation Undersecretary Timothy John R. Batan said.

In a presentation delivered at an India-Philippines infrastructure conference, Mr. Batan said: “Railways are the most efficient form of land-based transport but unfortunately, we have insufficient internally-generated funds.”

He added that 91% of the projects will be funded through foreign loans or official development assistance, with P1.548 trillion provided by bilateral and multilateral partners Japan, the Asian Development Bank and China.

Mr. Batan said the Philippines can still tap loans at low cost and longer terms while it is classified as a lower-middle income economy.

The P8-trillion ‘Build, Build, Build’ flagship program allocates about 21.7% to railways, 42% to other transportation infrastructure projects, 12% to water projects, 13% to social infrastructure, and the rest to power, information technology, government buildings and other works.

Mr. Batan said the process of approving projects and awarding contracts accelerated between 2016 and 2020, generating a robust pipeline of infrastructure projects for mass transport.

“We started from a very low base back in 2016, with only this much railway assets to speak off… We are going to see a peak in our capital expenditure by 2022 because of the status of all of our contracts having been awarded,” he said.

He said the transportation system still has a long way to go before railway density in Manila approaches that of other major cities in the region.

He estimated Manila’s railway density at 0.12 kilometers per square kilometer (km/, against 0.25 km/ for Jakarta, 0.75 km/ for Seoul, 1.12 km/ for Tokyo, and 1.38 km/ for Shanghai.

“We are having a massive railway asset buildup now but if you look at our comparable urban centers, we need 4-5 more times (the projects in the pipeline) in order to reach the same density, to get where our peer urban centers are at,” he said. — Beatrice M. Laforga