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Marcos has fires opening shot to Build Better More — Salceda
WITH the submission of 2023 national budget to the House of Representatives, House committee on ways and means chairman and Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda said “President Marcos is declaring that the era of big rail is back and that he has fired the opening shot to Build Better More.”
Salceda, who is the principal author of a resolution institutionalizing the President’s infrastructure spending targets and which first gave its name to the infrastructure program, said President Marcos “is moving towards national backbone projects, after PRRD’s main infrastructure legacy was the more than 20,000 infrastructure projects in the countryside.”
“PRRD’s strategy was to bring the resources of the national government down to the countryside. PBBM is going to maximize the benefits of that strategy by bringing these thousands of smaller infrastructure projects together through big connecting projects,” Salceda said.
“President Marcos is increasingly looking like the Big-Ticket Project President, especially Big Rail. PBBM multiplied the Railway Program project almost to five times the 2022 amount, from 23.12 billion to 113.99 billion. Rail got the biggest increment as a percent, among any major line item in the 2023 NEP,” Salceda said.
Salceda added that the bulk of the P380 billion unprogrammed appropriations for foreign-assisted projects will come from loan proceeds for railway projects.
He said P108 billion in peso counterpart for rail projects have already been anticipated in the budget.
Salceda said that the government is bullish about receiving loan proceeds from the Bicol Railway project which is now being renegotiated with China.
“The President proposed a large window of unprogrammed appropriations from loan proceeds so that, once the Bicol Railway loans actually materialize, we can immediately get the ball rolling with construction,” Salceda added.
“This would be the largest ever railway budget of any Philippine president, making PBBM decisively the ‘Railways President,” Salceda said.
Salceda added that the budget “certainly kicks off the era of Build Better More. Rail is decisively better at lowering logistics costs than any other land transport option. It is the cheapest per-kilogram option for freight. And clearly, the President wants significantly more of it.”
“Railway is also necessarily of longer distance than road infrastructure. So, PBBM is clearly trying to build a national backbone through rail. Interregional trade is bound to expand dramatically once this program is completed,” Salceda said.
Salceda also thanked Transport Sec. Jaime Bautista for “keeping Bicol Rail in the agenda” and appealed to Secretary Diokno to “move forward with the Bicol Rail loans.”
“I have asked Secretary Diokno to give the green light to the loans for Bicol Railway and the rest of the PNR South Long Haul project. If anything, the massive unprogrammed appropriations for loan proceeds is a sign that the national government is optimistic that we will have negotiations completed by this year, and loan proceeds received by next year,” he said.
Salceda also cited that he is working with the Transport department for the establishment of the Legazpi-Daraga Tramway, which will make use of the defunct PNR lines passing through the Municipality of Daraga and the City of Legazpi to create a metro-wide tramway system. Salceda said that the transport department has also expressed to him its intent to begin pre-project development.
“Together with the backbone Bicol Rail, I am optimistic about smaller metro-wide systems such as Legazpi Tramway which will probably draw from the Infrastructure Preparation and Innovation Facility of the DOTr,” he said.
“If all of these developments keep going well, PBBM will be the President of the Golden Age of Trains in the country,” Salceda added.