Senate approves bill extending life of PNR for 50 years

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Monday, May 19, 2014

THE Senate approved on third and final reading on Monday a bill extending the corporate life of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) for another 50 years.

Senator Cynthia Villar, chair of the committee on government corporations and public enterprises and sponsor of Senate Bill 183, emphasized the need to provide the public an affordable transport system.

She said the continuance of the commuter rail service in Metro Manila and of the anticipated rail service revival to Bicol will ensure a cheaper alternative means of transportation to passengers who come from the "lowest earning C and D economic bracket of our country’s population."

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, principal author and co-sponsor of the bill, said the proposed legislation sought to ensure the continuing operation of the PNR and hasten the rehabilitation and modernization of the railway lines and stations.

According to Recto, the rail system could provide an alternative mode of transportation to decongest traffic in heavily populated areas, particularly in Metro Manila.

"The problem is that our roads are past their carrying capacity. It has gone from bad to worse that one study pegged the economic and health losses to Metro Manila traffic at P137 billion," Recto said.

Recto said traffic was not a concern for Metro Manila alone, as Luzon’s major highways were also experiencing slow average travel time.

"The train service has shrunk to a 43-kilometer commuter line from Divisoria to Santa Rosa. At its peak, the Philippine railway system stretched 1,140 kilometers. It is time to maximize the underutilized asset that is the PNR," Recto said in his sponsorship speech.

Senate President Franklin Drilon welcomed the measure's passage, saying the approval shows that the government acknowledges that rail transit systems still play an "undeniably crucial role in the everyday lives of our citizens."

"Any stoppage of the rail service will be of huge inconvenience for our commuting public, especially for our countrymen who hail from provinces and have to travel to Metro Manila on a daily basis. It is important then for the government to ensure that the PNR continues to be a convenient, dependable and time-saving transit system for our people," he said.

Villar noted that as an archipelago, the Philippines required an efficient and safe transport networks to transport both passengers and freight.

"It cannot be overemphasized that railways directly contribute to economic growth as demand for transport is directly and positively correlated to growth of gross domestic product (GDP). The railways are superior to other modes of mass transportation in terms of minimal impact on the environment and efficiency of land use," Villar added.

Villar also said that PNR provided significant employment to Filipinos with its current 2,000 employees. (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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