China firm to study revival of Panay railway system

BY GLENDA SOLOGASTOA

Monday, March 20, 2017

ILOILO City – A company based in Beijing will conduct a feasibility study on the proposed revival of the Panay railway system – another sign of the warming of relations between the Philippines and China.

Panay Railways, Inc. (PRI) and China Railway International Group Limited (CRIGL) signed a memorandum of understanding and cooperation on Saturday in La Paz district.

“They will conduct the feasibility study, inspect our road right of way from Iloilo City to Roxas City, validate and further discuss the details of the proposed project,” said Cesar Capillan, PRI director/treasurer.

In the signing, PRI was represented by its president Atty. Juan Catalan. CRIGL was represented by its deputy general manager, Bai Rui.

According to Capillan, the CRIGL team arrived in Iloilo City on Friday. PRI presented its company profile and the local railway’s history.

CRIGL was asked to come up with the results of the feasibility study within two months. PRI will forward it to Malacañang, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) central office and Department of Transportation.

Capillan said CRIGL will also come up with a financing scheme for the proposed rehabilitation of the railway system from Iloilo City to Roxas City that more or less will cost about P16 billion.

Two schemes are being eyed – built operate and transfer (BOT) and public-private partnership (PPP).

Capillan said PRI is confident President Rodrigo Duterte, who is also the chairman of NEDA, will approve the railway system’s revival.

Last week, Duterte met with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang in Davao City and discussed the two country’s strategic and cooperative relationship, particularly for peace and development.

The Panay railway system was constructed in 1906 by the Americans. During World War II, this was damaged by bombings.

If the project pushes through, the revival works may be complete in three years, said Capillan.

The proposed phase one will start from Iloilo, either from the town of Pavia or Santa Barbara going to Roxas City in Capiz.

Capillan said a monorail from Iloilo City going to the Iloilo Airport is also being proposed.

The proposed phase two will be the extension going to Caticlan in Malay, Aklan – the jump-off point to Boracay Island.

TRAINS FOR PANAY

In his first State of the Nation Address July last year, Duterte revealed he was eyeing the revival of Panay Island’s railway system.

Before the joint session of Congress, Duterte said he would pursue this project within his six-year presidential term.

The railway’s revival will be a big boost to Western Visayas’ tourism, said Department of Tourism (DOT) regional director Helen Catalbas.

“(It) would be adding much to our already existing transportation facilities and connect the provinces of Western Visayas,” said Catalbas.

The railway’s original route was 117 kilometers long and included 19 permanent and 10 flag stations. It connected the then towns of La Paz and Jaro (now districts of Iloilo City), Pavia, Santa Barbara, New Lucena, Pototan, Dingle, Dueñas, and Passi in Iloilo, and Dumarao, Dao, Panitan, Cuartero, and Loctugan in Capiz. It reached Roxas City.

In Iloilo City, the trains ended at the passenger terminal along the wharf next to the Customs House and near where the current fast ferry terminal and the Iloilo City Hall. Trains ran across what is now the Drilon Bridge from La Paz and down the bank of the Iloilo River to Muelle Loney at the Port of Iloilo.

In 1980s, a 12-kilometer spur was constructed from Dueñas to Calinog, Iloilo to serve a sugar refinery in Iloilo. Operations ceased in 1983./PN