JV Ejercito: Budget cuts to cripple showcase railway projects

November 17, 2022 PS Jun M. Sarmiento 150 views

Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito on Wednesday evening raised concerns about the impending budget cuts that could potentially cripple some of the country’s ongoing railway projects, particularly the North-South Commuter Railway System and the first phase of the Metro Manila Subway System.

During his interpellation on the proposed budget of the Department of Transportation (DOTr), Ejercito revealed that in the House of Representatives version of the budget, the commuter railway system suffered a budget cut of around P40 billion, while about P10 billion was slashed from the proposed budget for the subway system.

Meanwhile, the Senate’s version stated that around P69 billion was removed from the budget’s unprogrammed appropriations, which will be used to pay for the live contracts of the said project’s contractors.

Both the national government and the country’s economic recovery will suffer from these budget cuts in the railway sector, Ejercito said.

“If ever there are budget cuts, definitely, the right of way acquisition will be affected. […] Ibig sabihin po nun, kapag magkaroon po ng delays sa right of way and relocation of utilities, definitely, the construction and civil works will also stop. Yung civil works pati mechanical, ay load po natin,” Ejercito said.

“I appeal to my colleagues to restore the budget that was cut. Halos kalahati. This will definitely affect the schedules. This will also entail financial charges. We will be burdened by these financial charges,” he added.

While most of the country’s railway projects are funded by international partners, such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the national government is expected to shoulder the right-of-way acquisition of land for railway facilities, as well as the value added tax that will be incurred by the said projects.

Senator Grace Poe, the proposed budget’s sponsor, admitted that the budget cuts that Ejercito pointed out could potentially delay the country’s railway projects by about a year.

“We keep doing this for all of our projects. This is not new. We need to be able to see what the priorities are and hopefully, this is one of them,” Poe said.

Ejercito also said these budget cuts will also endanger the country’s image before the international community, as well as President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. ‘s thrust towards railway development.

“More importantly, the delay in the completion of our railway projects because of lack of government support will also bring a lack of confidence from investors. It will paint a bad picture in the international community, while the President is trying hard to sell the country, that we are already open for business. The government should do its part,” he said.

Likewise, Ejercito said the completion of the country’s railways could pave the way for “growth triangles,” which would cover airports, seaports, and economic centers throughout the country.

“The development of the country’s railway system will serve as our economic driver and stimulate economic growth. It will bring massive development, not just in Metro Manila, but in other parts of the country as well. It will create jobs and improve the lives of Filipinos by spreading out development in the countryside,” Ejercito said.