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Why not a modern Manila-Bicol PNR line, too?

04:19 AM April 13, 2015

The construction of the P13.1-billion South Luzon Expressway Toll Road 4 project—a four-lane, 58-kilometer road between Sto. Tomas, Batangas, and Lucena, Quezon—which is part of the High Standard Highway Network (“New toll road project to cut  Manila-Quezon travel time,” Inquirer.net,  3/24/15), is indeed a welcome development.

As President Aquino said, this new toll road will cut the travel time between the two towns—from four hours to one hour. And it will make travel faster and, to be sure, will be a big boost to trade and commerce in the area.

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How we wish to also see the long-overdue rehabilitation and modernization of the Philippine National Railways (PNR). A growing population and current economic demands have made this project urgent and imperative now more than ever.

A modern-day PNR would be able to provide a more reliable and affordable mode of transportation for ordinary Filipinos than a toll road project that, by its very nature and high toll fees, is affordable only to the few. Aside from the wealthy and well-off car owners, a toll road  benefits mostly only the bus operators, cargo truck owners, importers and businessmen who can simply pass on the high cost of tolls to the consumers of their products and services.

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But to the ordinary motorists, tollways are a burden because of the high toll rates charged for their use.

Thus, the PNR, as a mass transport system, deserves immediate government attention. Aside from serving more passengers and benefiting more people, the rail transport system will decongest highways, spread urbanization to the countryside and significantly reduce toxic vehicle emissions that contribute to climate change, and that unnecessarily expose people to various kinds of illnesses and make them more vulnerable to natural disasters.

And once a modernized PNR shall have  extended its service up to the southern edge of Luzon, specifically the town of Matnog in  Sorsogon, its benefits will inevitably reach Eastern Visayas.

The Department of Transportation and Communications has sought approval from the House of Representatives for the proposed P1.750-billion budget for the rehabilitation of PNR’s Manila-Bicol line. We, in Camarines Sur, support this DOTC initiative.

We, however, realize that for this massive project to achieve its long-term socioeconomic value, the Philippine railway system must be modernized as well. We, therefore, call on our esteemed Camarines Sur congressmen to file the necessary House bill for the purpose and work together for its passage. And we, in the tourism sector, will do our share to make this dream project come true.

KRISTINE R. LIZARDO
Faculty member, tourism,
Ateneo de Naga University

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TAGS: Philippine National Railways, PNR, rail transport, South Luzon Expressway Toll Road 4, toll roads, Transportation
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