Chopping up PNR? DOTC should learn from Japan rail experience - Romulo


MANILA - The Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) plan to chop up and privatize the Philippine National Railways and it should learn from Japan's experience in the privatization of its Japan National Railways (JNR) to avoid costly and inequitable missteps.

The call was made by Pasig Rep. Roman Romulo following the signing of an agreement by President Benigno S. Aquino III and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to build the $2-billion North Commuter Railway from Tutuban, Manila to Malolos, Bulacan. The project which intends to "address the congestion challenges posed by urbanization" is said to be the largest loan package given by Japan to a development partner.

The government is expected to proceed on Dec. 1 with the submission of qualification documents by interested bidders for the South Railway Project. It is one of the biggest government PPP (public-private partnership) projects and involves the rehabilitation of the 653-kilometer railway from Tutuban to Legazpi then possibly to Matnog, Sorsogon.

Romulo pointed out that the North Commuter Railway is actually the "infamously corrupted North Rail that was carved out of the PNR North Line from Tutuban to Dagupan."

He said that its viability as an independent operation from the PNR has not been publicly validated.

Obviously, the plan of the DOTC is to chop up the Philippine National Railways with its North Line spun off and developed with the Japanese loans while the PNR South Line, from Tutuban all the way to Legaspi shall be sold off to private entities. The South line includes the immediately profitable Tutuban to Calamba operation and valuable PNR real estate.

"The Japanese when they privatized the JNR, carefully studied the economic viability of the rail coverage of the planned separate railway operations arising from the privatization," Romulo said.

"While the Japan National Railways was broken up and privatized into 7 railway companies, each new rail operation was organized on the basis of ascertained viability of the area covered," he noted.
"Let it not be said that we did not speak out on this very important matter, I urged the DOTC to conduct an immediate, thorough and transparent study to ensure that the projects will provide long-term and maximum benefits for our people. Let us not repeat the negative experiences we had in the MRT public-private partnership misadventure." Romulo said.