Saturday, 3 January 2009
By Jason B. Neola
December 11, 2008 6:44 pm by pna
NAGA CITY, Dec. 11 — Rehabilitation of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) will require the eviction and relocation of some 30,000 families nestled inside the 15-meter clearance on both sides of the PNR mainline south rail from Calamba, Laguna to Legazpi City in Albay.
This is the problem being tackled by the Community Organization of the Philippines (COPE), a national government organization, undertaking social preparations in anticipation of the resumption of the PNR's mothballed repair and rehabilitation of the Bicol south line, once government funds are made available to implement the project.
PNR's rehabilitation from Laguna to Bicol and the construction of new line towards Matnog, Sorsogon was scheduled to start in 2005 and completed in 2011.
But it was put on the wayside following recent political developments that had seen alleged questionable big-time loan deals with foreign investors, specifically China-based financial institutions.
Jun de la Torre, COPE assistant regional coordinator said they have strengthened their social preparation efforts in favor of the railway settlers by collaborating with the Bicol Urban Poor Coordinating Council (BUPCC), headed by Lorna Chavez, to ensure that the rights of these affected settlers would not be derailed when the PNR rehabilitation project starts in the near future.
The project, once it rolls off, is estimated to cost P52.19 billion, of which P35.15 billion will be for repair of railways from Calamba to Legazpi and the construction of a new railway from Legazpi to Sorsogon.
The remaining P17.3 billion will be allocated for clearing of the 15-meter clearance on both sides of the railway.
This means the eviction of the encroaching 30,000 families and the provision of relocation sites with available basic infrastructures and services.
De La Torre said they would press for adequate standard of living and housing for the affected settlers as identified by the Commission on Human Rights.
This would involve, he said, the settlers’ legal security of tenure in the new site, availability of services, materials, facilities and infrastructure, affordability of household financial cost in the new site, habitability, accessibility, acceptable location, and cultural adequacy.
BUPCC's Chavez said, in undertaking social preparations, they have adopted the “Kaantabay sa Kauswagan” or urban poor program of the Naga City Government as model.
She said Naga City's program was slowly being adopted, by Legazpi City in confronting the issue of PNR illegal settlers.
She said security of tenure and availability of basic services were two of the key elements that the illegal settlers would need to start a new life in their new homes.
The HUDC will support the housing needs, while the NHA is mandated to identify habitable relocation sites.
PNR sources said many foreign private contractors have shown interest in undertaking the multi-million railway rehabilitation project.
But these contractors are turned off by the huge number of illegal settlers along the railways which becomes a complex problem to tackle.
Travel time of 14 hours from Sorsogon to Manila via the Maharlika Highway would be reduced to 6 hours once the PNR south line has been fully rehabilitated, PNR sources said.
The Calamba-Legazpi line spans 483 kms of railways while the proposed Legazpi-Sorsogon (Matnog) line covers a distance of 135 kilometers.
The Caloocan PNR depot will also be dismantled, and its major facilities relocated to the Legazpi City PNR station.
The station will have a stumbling yard, dormitories and maintain the station buildings throughout the south line route. (PNA)
By GENALYN D. KABILING
The Manila Bulletin
Malacañang has ordered the speedy completion of nine ongoing railway projects worth P282.65 billion as well as new roads and bridges this year in a bid to unclog busy highways and crowded city centers particularly Metro Manila.
Presidential Management Staff chief Cerge Remonde said the government’s renewed focus on infrastructure development is meant to boost economic growth and create employment in the face of an expected economic slowdown this year.
"We believe that the most urgent challenge the administration is facing right now is finding ways to mitigate and cushion the effects of the global financial crisis on the economy, and sustain the economic gains our country had achieved," Remonde said in an interview.
Remonde said the government is implementing nine modern railway projects across the country, eight of which are located in the Luzon Urban Beltway, as part of its ambitious goal to decongest Metro Manila by 2010 under the "Beat the Odds" program.
He said the new railway systems are expected not only to speed up travel but also to interconnect North and South Luzon and close the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT) loop.
The Luzon rail projects are the LRT Line 1 North Extension; LRT Line 1 South Extension from Baclaran to Bacoor; LRT Line 2 East Extension Project in Masinag, Antipolo; MRT 3 Capacity Expansion; MRT 7; the Northrail Project; Northrail- Southrail Linkage; and Southrail Project Phase I.
The only railway project outside Luzon is the Southrail Project Phases 1B and 2 in Central Philippines.
"Once these railways are completed, they are expected to provide cheaper and faster alternative mode of transportation," Remonde said.
He said the Northrail Project will reduce travel time from Caloocan to Clark in Pampanga by an hour and 49 minutes. The Northrail-Southrail linkage will make travel from Caloocan City to Calamba, Laguna shorter by an hour and 20 minutes.
On the other hand, travel time from Calamba to Lucena City in Quezon will be shortened from three hours and 21 minutes to 1 hour and 41 minutes once the Southrail project is completed.
The MRT 7 is expected to cut travel time from Caloocan to North Avenue by almost an hour, while the LRT Line 1 North and South extensions will also shorten travel time for commuters, Remonde added.
Remonde said the government will also aggressively implement the construction and improvement of roads and bridges across the country. Majority of the projects are being implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
The C5 Expressway (NLEX-SLEX Link) and the South Luzon Expressway Extension (SLEx) Project are being handled by the Toll Regulatory Board, while the Daang-Hari SLEX Link will be implemented by the National Development Company (NDC).
The EDSA Rehabilitation Project is under the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority while the Metro Manila Skyway Stage 2 is being developed by Citra Metro Manila Tollways Corporation.
He said the DPWH and the Office of the Solicitor General have started work on the right-of-way acquisition for Segment 8.1 (Mindanao Avenue to NLEx) of the C5 NLEx- SLEx Link.
The Toll Road 1 (Alabang Viaduct) of the South Luzon Expressway Project was opened to the public last November, while civil works on Toll Road 2 (Sta. Rosa to Calamba) and Toll Road 3 (Calamba to Sto. Tomas, Batangas) are ongoing.
Advance work is being undertaken on the Metro Manila Skyway Stage 2, while pre-construction activities are being prepared by the NDC for the DaangHari Project.
In another measure to decongest Metro Manila, Remonde said the government is pursuing decentralization through the transfer and establishment of new government centers outside the metropolis.
"These new centers shall serve as catalysts of growth by facilitating the entry of investments and other economic activities and eventually create new hubs for business and housing as counter magnets to theNational Capital Region," he said.
He said the operations of some government agencies are gradually being transferred to various regions. These include the Department of Agriculture to Isabela; Department of Tourism to Cebu City; Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to Davao City; Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to Clark, Pampanga; DPWH to Bicol; and Department of National Defense to Mindanao or Lucena City.
Friday, 2 January 2009
Employees will be able to enjoy a longer yearend break as Malacañang yesterday declared Jan. 2, 2009 as a non-working holiday.
Executive Secretary Eduardo R. Ermita said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had made the decision after consulting with business and labor leaders. It was formalized through
Proclamation 1695 which Mr. Ermita signed yesterday. "They [business and labor] have no objections to declaring it [Jan. 2] as a non-working holiday," he said.
The proclamation effectively provides for an 11-day break starting from Dec. 25, Christmas Day, to Jan. 4, the first Sunday of 2009. Officially, however, the days counted as holidays are only Dec. 25-26, 29-31, and Jan. 1-2. Employees who have no work on Saturdays and Sundays will thus return to work on Jan. 5.
"A longer weekend encourages families to get together and strengthen their relationship towards a more productive environment as well as promotes domestic tourism and enables employers to plan their work schedules effectively and efficiently, resulting in improved productivity," the proclamation states.
Businessmen said the long holiday would not have much impact on productivity and added that they had already implemented measures for the break. "[W]e already factored that [long holiday] in ... we do not see much impact [on productivity]," Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chairman Emeritus Donald G. Dee said in a telephone interview.
Federation of Philippine Industries President Jesus L. Arranza said the long break may affect workers who receive daily wages but noted that nobody was barred from working.
"There is no prohibition for them [workers] to work. They [employers] just have to pay a little premium. I do not mind at all. A holiday is not an order which states that nobody can work," he said.
Management and employees can set the terms on rendering work on holidays so there is no need to worry about productivity, he added.