China-backed rail projects postponed due to lack of funding: DOTr

·Contributor
·2 min read
Department of Transportation (DOTr) Undersecretary for Rails Cesar Chavez. Beijing is yet to deliver the billions of dollars promised to fund some of the China-backed projects, according to the transport official. (Photo: Cesar Chavez/Facebook)
Department of Transportation (DOTr) Undersecretary for Rails Cesar Chavez. Beijing is yet to deliver the billions of dollars promised to fund some of the China-backed projects, according to the transport official. (Photo: Cesar Chavez/Facebook)

Former President Rodrigo Duterte’s “Build, Build, Build” is once again facing some bumps as the construction of several China-backed railway projects is put off due to scarcity of funding.

According to Department of Transportation (DOTr) Undersecretary Cesar Chavez, the P142 billion Calamba to Bicol railway, the P51 billion Clark to Subic train system, and the P83 billion Mindanao Railway still have no funding.

Ang gusto nating malaman ng tao, walang pondo. Para sa Calamba to Bicol, iyong P142 billion na pinag-usapan, walang pondo iyan. Iyong Clark to Subic, walang pondo yan. Iyong Tagum-Digos, yung 110 kilometers, walang pondo yan. (We are saying this) para to manage expectations ng taumbayan, by both Houses of Congress, the Cabinet and the people. Iyong mga umaasa,” Chavez said on Thursday (July 15).

(We want the public to know that we have no funds. The Calamba to Bicol project worth P142 billion, no funds. So do the Clark-to-Subic and Tagum-Digos projects. We are saying this to manage the expectations of the public, Congress, the Cabinet, and those hoping.)

Of the three, the 380-kilometer Philippine National Railways (PNR) project from Banlic, Calamba to Daraga, Albay is the largest contract among the railway projects.

The transportation agency has earlier awarded the contract for the PNR Bicol Package 1 to the Chinese joint venture China Railway Group Ltd, China Railway No. 3 Engineering Group Co. Ltd., and China Railway Engineering Consulting Group Co. Ltd.

Meanwhile, the P83 billion Mindanao Railway Project, which was set to begin its Phase 1 construction for the Tagum-Davao-Digos segment in January 2019 also hasn’t secured funding.

Chavez said that former Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III tried following up on the Philippines’ loan application with China in February.

Sinabi doon sa sulat ng Secretary of Finance, which means representing the government, [na] kung hindi ninyo iga-grant ang loan na ito, consider it withdrawn. Anong ibig sabihin? Dahil walang sagot, withdrawn," Chavez said.

(In the letters by the Secretary of Finance, which means representing the government, if you don’t grant these loans, consider it withdrawn. What does this mean? Because there was no reply, they were withdrawn.)

Consequently, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. directed for the loan with the Chinese government to be reopened.

Debt, Debt, Debt

In line with Duterte’s last wish for the Marcos administration to continue its debt-driven infrastructure projects, Senator Mark has filed a bill seeking to institutionalize the Build, Build, Build program.

This is despite the country’s debt already standing at P12.76 trillion as of end-April.

Earlier, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) announced that only 19 key infrastructures out of 119 projects were completed by the end of Duterte’s term last June 30.

The DPWH also reported that only P70.65 billion or 1.4% of the P5.08 trillion total costs of investments for the projects have been used.

The three largest projects completed in terms of cost include the MRT-3 Rehabilitation Project at P21.966 billion, the New Clark City Phase 1 at P18 billion, and the Clark International Airport Expansion project at P14.972 billion.

Pola Rubio is a news writer and photojournalist covering Philippine politics and events. She regularly follows worldwide and local happenings. She advocates for animal welfare and press freedom. Follow her on Twitter @polarubyo for regular news and cat postings.

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