First phase of Panay railways rehab to cost US$1.5 billion

Panay Railways, Inc. Chief Operating Officer Cesar Capellan shows to Daily Guardian the current condition of the old railway line. (Joseph B.A. Marzan)

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

While cheers met President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s inclusion of Panay Railways’ revival in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, the railway company’s head reminded that the project would cost billions.

Panay Railways, Inc. (PRI) Chief Operating Officer (COO) Cesar Capellan told Daily Guardian Tuesday that the railway’s rehab will cost US$1.5 billion or around PHP82.5 billion (at US$1=PHP55).

The price tag was for Phase 1 alone, which would entail reviving the old rail line between the cities of Iloilo and Roxas and would likewise include an extension from the original Lapuz station toward the Iloilo International Port in the district’s Brgy. Loboc.

The cost already includes civil works, acquisition of rolling stock, hiring of personnel, maintenance, and relocation costs.

“For the rehabilitation of the old railway systems, $1.5 billion [would be needed]. The employment [needed under our] feasibility studies alone is [around] 1,000, including cashiers, station managers, security guards, train drivers, and mechanics in about 17 stations,” Capellan said.

Should the rehabilitation push through, residents leasing PRI’s land properties would be asked to vacate their premises within 6 months prior to construction.

Since the railway’s closure in 1985, PRI has been leasing its properties with a two-year renewal period.

Capellan said that Marcos’ statement on the railway’s revival would mean more proposals would come in, especially from foreign investors.

He said that there have been 9 foreign companies from China, Germany, Lithuania, Malaysia, and South Korea that had sought to invest in the rehabilitation under the Duterte administration, but there were no full proposals submitted and no costing attached.

Local Philtrak consortium, which involved electric road train technology built by the Department of Science and Technology, also pushed its own proposal but plans also fell through due to lack of funding.

There have been recent proposals from companies based in the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia, which Capellan said might ink a Memorandum of Understanding with them soon.

“I’m very much happy about [the announcement], not only me but the whole people of Panay appreciate it. This time, I will be receiving more [proposals from] proponents.

[Potential] investors are actually just waiting for a confirmation from Malacañang,” he said.