CHANGE OF HEART?
    PNoy now eyes high-speed railway between Clark, MM

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    CLARK FREEPORT – President Aquino has asked the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to conduct a feasibility study on a “high speed railway” to link the Clark International Airport (CIA) and Metro Manila, using the same old route initially intended for the aborted North Railways project of the Arroyo administration.

    Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) President-CEO Victor Jose Luciano said the President issued this directive Tuesday last week during a meeting of the Cabinet cluster on transportation.

    “The President seemed optimistic. Even a proposed additional runway at the NAIA would not be enough,” Luciano said in an interview with newsmen here yesterday. Luciano said that while the DOTC is eyeing the construction of a new international airport at Sangley Point in Cavite, this project is not expected to be realized soon.

    A new international airport there would cost about P436 billion, said a study of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) which reportedly recommended the location at Sangley. The President said that the old rails of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) could be used for the high speed railway.

    The Arroyo government had spent considerably for moving informal settlers along this route from Caloocan City to Clark, to give way to her government’s North Railways project which was aborted during the Aquino administration amid reports of anomalies.

    Luciano said, however, that the high speed railway being proposed by the President would be different from the railways project of Arroyo. No details on the new project was available, as the DOTC has yet to conduct a feasibility study on it.

    Multi-sectoral leaders in Central Luzon have criticized the President for inaction on the Clark-Metro Manila railway which was first proposed during the administration of President Ramos who, in 1994, had signed an executive order declaring the Clark International Airport here as the site of the country’s future premier international gateway.

    Last week, Sen. Francis Escudero urged the government to pin down those involved in the anomalous North Rail project of the past administration which reportedly had already cost the government $180 million on top of a $50 million outstanding loan, or a total of P9 billion.

    When Aquino assumed the presidency, only railway posts from Caloocan City to Malolos, Bulacan had been finished for the project. Earlier, business leaders in Central Luzon urged the government to extend to Clark the P271 billion North-South Commuter Railway linking Calamba, Laguna in the south and Malolos, Bulacan in the north.

    Businessman Rene Romero, an officer of the Pampanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry, asked Central Luzon’s Regional Development Council (RDC) to pass a resolution on this.

    “The big ticket project’s palpable omission of Clark in the northern link are both disheartening and perplexing when we note that no less than aviation industry savants, economic development experts, architects and planners of global repute and even government executives and legislator acknowledge and enthuse over the Clark International Airport’s globally-acclaimed aviation facilities and its expansive area conducive for aeronautical and logistics hub development,” Romero stated in his letter to RDC Central Luzon Chairman and Bulacan Gov. Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado.

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