10 foreign firms eye railway investments

PRI chief operating officer Cesar Capellan

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

Several foreign companies have offered to revive the old railway system in Panay.

Panay Railways Inc. chief operating officer Cesar Capellan said 10 possible investors sent letters of interest and proposals on how to go about the Integrated Panay Railway System.

These firms are based in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, England, China, Japan and even the Philippines.

In an interview with Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo, Capellan said one prospective investor from Turkey is scheduled to visit the city on Jan 15, 2023 for a courtesy call with Mayor Jerry Treñas.

The firm will also make a presentation to the National Economic and Development Authority regarding its proposal to revive the old Panay railways.

Capellan said they did not set a deadline for the proposals from the investors but a memorandum of understanding (MOU) will be crafted after PRI has met with the proponents.

The MOU will also pave the way for the bidding of the railway project.

In his first State of the Nation Address in July 2022, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said that the revival of the now-defunct Panay Railways is included in the priority infrastructure projects of his administration.

“Beyond NCR, larger-scale railway systems like the 102-kilometer Mindanao Railways Project, the Panay Railway project, and the Cebu railway system will be integrated as a vital part of our transport and communications systems,” he said.

Panay Railways Inc. only exists for the assets leasing and records management of properties under its name. It is owned by the Philippine Veterans Investment Development Corporation (PHIVIDEC).

On July 29, China Railway Investment Group Ltd. (CRIG) wrote PRI, expressing a reinvigorated interest to inject financing, loan, investment, logistics supply, and other forms of cooperation.

The company has fielded its business associate in China, the Shanghai EVER-DO International Logistics Co. Ltd., to support the logistical items for the development of the project.

CRIG is also one of the contractors of the PHP142-billion PNR South Long-Haul Project, also called the PNR Bicol Express. It formed a consortium with China Railway No. 3 Engineering Group Co. Ltd., and China Railway Engineering Consulting Group Co. Ltd. to undertake the project.

Capellan earlier said that the railway’s rehab will cost US$1.5 billion.

The price tag was for Phase 1 alone, which would entail reviving the old rail line between the cities of Iloilo and Roxas and would likewise include an extension from the original Lapuz station toward the Iloilo International Port in the district’s Brgy. Loboc.

The cost already includes civil works, acquisition of rolling stock, hiring of personnel, maintenance, and relocation costs.

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas on Monday suggested that the revival of Panay Railways should take place outside the city as it no longer needs a rail-based transport system.

Treñas said the city has so many roads already that it may no longer be feasible for the city to have a railway in its bustling districts.

He cited rural rail systems in other countries which are located near or on the outskirts of the city.

“We have so many roads in the city now, sometimes they have even doubled. Here in the city, we may not need it anymore. [Panay Railways] should be constructed outside the city. By doing that, we avoid displacing a lot of people,” Treñas said in a press conference Monday.

He added that reviving Panay Railways’ old line in the city would displace residents in La Paz and Jaro districts, creating a huge burden in relocating them.