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The gov’t has neglected the railroad

/ 12:06 AM August 29, 2014

I read in the newspapers that the Philippine National Railways (PNR) will invest hundreds of millions of pesos to purchase buses. I also saw on television commuters packed liked sardines in PNR commuter trains, with more of them waiting at train stations where trains stop at 30-minute intervals only. Another PNR story was about a train that was derailed, luckily with no one hurt.

Instead of buses, shouldn’t the PNR use the money to buy more locomotives and coaches and repair the railroad tracks?

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Don’t we have a surfeit of buses already? Where is the PNR going to put the additional buses? Most of the roads in the Philippines, except those in remote areas, are already overflowing with vehicles, and traffic movement has been reduced to a crawl.

Buses are the biggest cause of traffic jams in Metro Manila, especially on Edsa. On C-5 road, it is cargo trucks. Giant cargo trucks are also the cause of traffic congestion in Manila’s narrow streets. On Rizal Avenue and Samson Road, it is jeepneys. Every year, the car assemblers pour more than 300,000 more cars onto the streets, not counting the thousands more smuggled in through the free ports, and the jeepneys assembled in Laguna and Cavite from recycled and surplus parts. But not enough new streets are being built to hold them.

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Some of the country roads in Bulacan and the Calabarzon are almost as congested as Edsa. The elevated MRT trains are also packed and now frequently break down. It is now left to the PNR to transport big numbers of people and goods quickly. But the PNR lacks funds to improve and expand its services. The national government has neglected our only railroad.

In all developed countries, the railroad is the cheapest and most efficient mode of transportation. It was the railroad that opened up and helped develop the great American West. The railroad connects the countries all over Europe. In China and Russia, the railroad makes remote areas like Siberia accessible to civilization. But in the Philippines, we have allowed our railroads to rot away to almost nothing.

Up to the time of President Diosdado Macapagal, we had an efficient railroad running from San Fernando, La Union, in the north of Luzon to Legazpi, Albay, in the south. You could travel in comfort in first class coaches through almost the whole length of Luzon aboard these trains. There was a plan to expand the railroad—to run from Ilocos Norte to Sorsogon. There also used to be railroads in some of the big islands in the Visayas. Another plan was to build a railroad in Mindanao to connect the provinces and towns there. What happened to all these railroads and plans?

Now the PNR has been reduced to run only around Metro Manila and until Quezon province in the south. The central station in Tutuban has been turned into a giant shopping mall, of which we also have a surfeit. The railroad tracks have been occupied by squatters. There should have been no problem with taking cargo out of the congested Manila ports had the railroad tracks from the piers not been taken over by squatters. The North Rail project, intended to reopen the line to North Luzon, was derailed by squatters and corruption.

The national government has neglected and forgotten the railroad. It is now like a dying patient. The government should pour money into the PNR to revive it.

* * *

Thank God, 700 trees along the Manila North Road in Pangasinan province have been saved from being murdered by the Department of Public Works and Highways to give way to a road-widening project. But not after 1,059 other huge trees have been massacred. No amount of press releases can bring those trees back to life. To atone for their sins, the tree-murderers say they will plant thousands of tree seedlings to replace those that have been cut. But even if they plant 1 million or 10 million seedlings, it will take many decades before those trees grow to the size of the trees that have been massacred.

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Those trees are gone forever. God must be mourning over the death of the trees that He had created. To paraphrase Joyce Kilmer’s poem “Trees,” roads are made by fools at the DPWH, but only God can make a tree.

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TAGS: Albay, Diosdado Macapagal, Joyce Kilmer, La Union, Legazpi, Luzon, Philippine National Railways, PNR, PNR commuter, PNR story, Rizal Avenue, Samson Road, San Fernando, trees
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