ADB requires vigilance as Philippines indicators $1.87-B contracts for rail venture

THE ASIAN Development Bank (ADB) called for vigilance on the implementation of the South Commuter Railway Project, which is being funded by a $4.3-billion loan to the Philippine government.

The government, represented by Transportation Secretary Jaime J. Bautista, signed on Thursday the first four civil work contracts worth $1.87 billion for the 54.6-kilometer South Commuter Railway that will connect Manila to Calamba, Laguna.

“My final message is a call for vigilance. Great quantities of money come with great responsibility. Today, we are signing almost $2 billion worth of contracts. It’s just the first phase of the $4.3-billion project,” Winfried F. Wicklein, deputy director-general for Southeast Asia at the ADB, said during the signing ceremony witnessed by President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. in Calamba.

“While it will, in the first instance, be the responsibility of the contractors to deliver the project, it is also our collective responsibility to ensure that this really happens,” he added.

The South Commuter Railway is part of the 147-km North-South Commuter Railway network, which the ADB described as the “largest infrastructure project in the history of ADB financing” in Asia-Pacific.

The four civil work contracts signed on Thursday involve the construction of 31.5 kilometers of railway viaducts, nine elevated stations, and a railway depot covering the Muntinlupa to Calamba segment of the rail system.

The South Korean joint venture of Hyundai Engineering & Construction Co. Ltd. and Dong-Ah Geological Engineering Co. Ltd. inked three contracts for an 8.5-km railway viaduct, including elevated stations in Alabang, Muntinlupa; a 12.8-km railway viaduct structure, including elevated stations in San Pedro, Pacita, Biñan and Santa Rosa; and a 10.28-km railway viaduct as well as elevated stations in Cabuyao, Banlic and Calamba.

The joint venture of South Korea’s Lotte Engineering & Construction Co. Ltd., Turkey’s Gulermak Agir Sanayi Insaat ve Taahhut AS and the Philippines’ EEI Corp signed the contract to build a depot and 0.5-km road.

The South Commuter Railway, which will run from Blumentritt in Manila to Calamba City in Laguna, will include 18 stations.

Once completed, the railway will accommodate 340,000 passengers daily, helping ease traffic congestion in Metro Manila and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The entire rail system, which will run from Clark International Airport to Calamba, is expected to be completed by March 2029, the DoTr said. The project is co-financed by the ADB and Japan International Cooperation Agency.

The Clark International Airport-Valenzuela portion is now being built, while the Muntinlupa-Calamba portion will start this year, the DoTr said.  

“We must deliver this project with high quality, within budget, and — like the trains themselves — arriving at our destination on schedule,” ADB’s Mr. Wicklein said.

In his speech, Mr. Marcos called on the Department of Transportation (DoTr) and concerned agencies “to ensure the smooth and faithful implementation” of the railway project.

The DoTr said the remaining ADB-financed civil works contract packages, which covers the Manila to Muntinlupa portion of the NSCR, will be awarded “soon.” — Arjay L. Balinbin

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