Today's Punto
Today's Punto
Now, on track
By Bong Lacson

Jan 11, 2018

AND SO, it has begun.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency last week commenced the detailed engineering design for the second phase of the Philippine National Railways’ Clark North Project. So, announced Japanese Ambassador Koji Haneda.

JICA takes center stage in the project as the lion’s share – P93 billion – in its P150- billion funding will come from the agency – a direct result of President Duterte’s second official visit to Japan in October last year, so it was emphasized in some press release. The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is likewise committed to extend Official Development Assistance to the project, disclosed Haneda. Banzai! Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

PNR Clark North Phase 2 runs 69.5 kilometers from Malolos City, Bulacan to the Clark International Airport, taking off from the 38-kilometer Phase 1 Tutuban-to-Malolos span.

In his usual bite-more-than-he-can-chew verbosity, Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade crowed: 1) Phase 1 will be completed in 2021, ahead of its 2022 original target completion; 2) the entire PNR line from Tutuban all the way to the Clark airport will be an electrified, fully elevated and standard gauge railway; 3) Phase 2 is specifi cally being built to serve the new terminal of the Clark airport which construction has also started and set to be finished by 2020.

Tugade, thank God, did no iteration of his take on the Duterte work ethic at the start of this administration when he referenced on the MRT mess they inherited: “Ang taas ng expectation… ang hindi mag-perform, katay!”

Well, the toughie from Tatalon ain’t yet butchered, not even the least pinched, with the MRT getting even messier under his watch.

Anyways, I can still take Tugade anytime over his predecessor Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya, where Clark is concerned.

One of the greatest disservices to the Filipino nation, unarguably the gravest sin of President Benigno Aquino III against his own people of Central and Northern Luzon was, and still is, not so much his failure but his refusal to develop Clark, most especially the scrapping of the North Rail Project of the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

At BS Aquino’s assumption of the presidency in 2010, the whole length of the North Rail Project from Tutuban to Clark have been cleared of informal settlers, relocated to the so-called Northville subdivisions not in some far-flung places but right in the cities and towns traversed by the tracks. So much social engineering impacted – and money expended – for that feat.

The titanic pillars to support the overhead rails had been raised to as far as Malolos City. Again, no mean feat there.

And then the BS scuttled the whole project, crying “Corruption!” fi nding no way to continue with it side by side an investigation of any and all irregularities related to it. (Come to think of it, but for the settling of accounts with the Chinese funders, what else came out, ultimately, with the supposed North Rail probe? We did not read or hear of anyone ever being indicted, did we?)

It takes no rocket scientist to think how much – in the more than seven years since the project was stopped – could have been accomplished were it allowed to continue.

Why – measured against Tugade’s timeline – the GMA-driven north railway would have been by now way into Mangaldan or Dagupan in Pangasinan, the traditional northern main stops in the old PNR system. Think of the trade, travel and commerce that would have come with the riles there.

More importantly, for us in Central Luzon, the Clark terminus would have already been serving its purpose as decongestant to Metro Manila, and the Clark airport already a premier international gateway.

Yeah, to the highest heavens, it really stinks. That of all people, it had to be BS Aquino to kill the dreams of his own people. Ay, it really takes a BS to be the BS. As it can ever be.

And the salvager – fittingly, that word – of that dream had to come from faraway Davao!

So, I rejoice for now. Even willing to give Thugade the hug. Until Ramon Ang’s new Manila International Airport rises in Bulacan.

Then, it’s katay season anew. The butchering all ours.

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