By Freddie Velez
CITY OF MALOLOS, Bulacan—Finally, the construction of the Tutuban-Malolos phase of the Philippine National Railway (PNR) North-South Railway started Friday in this city and is expected to be completed by the last quarter of 2021.
Present during the groundbreaking ceremony along the PNR railway were Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Koji Haneda, Transportation Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John Batan, PNR general manager Junn Magno, Bulacan Governor Wilhelmino M. Sy Alvarado, Bulacan (2nd district) Rep. Apol Pancho, Bulacan (4th district) Rep. Linabelle Villarica and representatives from Sumitomo Mitsui Construction Co. Ltd.
Tugade said the construction of the North-South Commuter Railway (Malolos-Tutuban) project is one of the flagship projects of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) together with the PNR under the Build, Build, Build program of the government.
Governor Alvarado said the 37.6-kilometer mass railway transportation will reduce travel time between Manila and Bulacan to 35 minutes from the current one-hour-and-30 minutes. Once the railway will be fully operational it is expected to serve about 300,000 commuters daily.
There will be 10 stations along the alignment project: Tutuban, Solis, Caloocan, Valenzuela, Meycauayan, Marilao, Bocaue, Balagtas, Guiguinto, and Malolos.
It will also be seamlessly integrated with the PNR North 2, Malolos- Clark Project and the PNR South Commuter, Manila to Calamba, Laguna Project, forming one integrated commuter railway system that will serve commuters travelling to, from, and within NCR, Region III, and Region IV-A.
The project is made possible through an Official Development Assistance (ODA) from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) following a Loan Agreement signed on 27 November 2015. Its Detailed Engineering Design (DED) was approved on August 2017 parallel to the procurement of the General Consultant (GC) which has commenced on January 2018.
Due to the project’s massive and complex nature, the Works has been divided into four packages — the Contract Package 02 that includes the Construction of Civil works for Elevated structures and three (3) stations (Balagtas, Guiguinto and Malolos).
With the help and expertise of the Procurement Services of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) as the project’s procurement agency in accordance with the governing implementing rules and regulations of the Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB) and JICA Guidelines, the contract package has gone through in-depth technical and financial evaluation and negotiation. The contract was finally awarded to the contractor last month.
Over 300 informal settler families along the railway project will be resettled properly as part of the social responsibility of the DOTr.
In line with this, the DOTr has entered into and approved a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Caloocan and Manila, Valenzuela and Guiguinto for Bulacan areas, PNR, National Housing Authority (NHA), Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) and Local Government Units (LGU’s) for the relocation and resettlement of Informal Settler Families (ISFs) who will be affected by the project. This is to ensure that no family will be left behind, but will improve their economic and social life by providing them financing for socialized housing and livelihood programs under the monitoring and supervision of DOTr.