LEGAZPI CITY –- Albay Gov. Joey Salceda has announced he is filing charges against the Philippine National Railways for using the premium tourist train not in the Bicol-Manila route where its acquisition was intended.
The PNR utilizes the trains on Tutuban-Laguna run instead of the Bicol route where it is intended when acquired through a donation from the Japan National Railways solicited by General Manager Junio Ragrario. Salceda laments the decision made by the PNR that promised to service the city as early as Nov. 2011.
This route- usage realignment has resulted in depriving Bicolanos of vital economic services since 2006. The governor asserts diverting earmarked resources to another route may comprise constructive malversation.
The governor stressed that it is an incredible abandonment of the people in Bicol which embodies the highest form of social injustice to the rural poor and a disservice to countryside development.
As the recent test run on the Naga-Legazpi route proved successful, the construction crews are fast tracking the works so that southbound trips terminating in Legazpi are resumed.
Rehabilitation of PNR south facilities from Calamba, Laguna, to the city covering a distance of 483 kilometers, which was allotted an amount of P35.15 billion, started in 2005 and scheduled for completion by 2011.
The project suffered a major setback when super typhoons “Milenyo” and “Reming” successively battered Bicol in 2006, rendering crippling damages on the railways between Naga City and here.
Plans then to restore the Legazpi trips were shelved even as the Naga City-Manila trips were maintained intermittently.
In 2011, the administration of Pres. Benigno Aquino III pushed for the resumption of the rehabilitation of the damaged Bicol section of the railways which was eventually completed up to Ligao City, Albay, a year after.
Manila-Ligao trips were restored in early December last year with Salceda expressing optimism during the inaugural run that rehabilitation works for the railway line would be completed at once so that trains would be once more seen traversing its original route deep into the central point of Albay.
The governor said that with the imminent restoration of train trips to Legazpi, trade activities will greatly improve as products from Albay and manufacturers from Calabarzon and Manila will use the railways, thus, this would result in cheaper products, freight cost and fast travel time.
The refurbished coaches from Japan to be used by the PNR for the Bicol Express and Mayon Limited will offer first-class, sleepers, economy, restaurant, and cargo coaches.
The restoration of PNR trips between Bicol and Manila, Ragrario said, proves that trains remain an important component of the mass transportation system in the route for its being more economical, convenient and safe.
With these developments, the PNR, Ragrario added, expects its passenger base to increase from the previous 400,000 a month to 600,000.
“What happen to these promises of the PNR now that the train supposed to be for the Mayon Limited has been fielded in the Tutuban-Laguna route? I am pursuing my case for the Bicolanos to be able to get back that train,” Salceda said.