NEW TRAINS. One of the new trains of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) Clark Phase 1 during an inspection of the train depot in Valenzuela City on Jan. 26, 2022. Department of Transportation Undersecretary for Planning Timothy John Batan said the DOTr is looking into the possibility of funding three former China-backed rail projects through partnerships with the private sector. (Photo courtesy of DOTr)

MANILA – The Department of Transportation (DOTr) is looking into possible partnerships with the private sector to fund three railway projects that were supposed to be backed by China but whose loan agreements are still being "revisited" at the moment.

In a Laging Handa briefing on Wednesday, DOTr Undersecretary for Planning Timothy John Batan said President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has asked to renegotiate with China and at the same time look into the possibility of partnering with the private sector for these projects.

“Sabay nating pinag-aaralan iyang interes ng China at interes ng ating pribadong sektor para dito sa mga proyektong hindi napondohan ng China nitong nakaraang administrasyon (We are simultaneously looking into China’s and the private sector’s interest in the projects that failed to receive funding from China during the previous administration),” Batan said.

These three railway projects are the Philippine National Railways (PNR) South Long Haul Project connecting Metro Manila, Batangas, Bicol, and Matnog in Sorsogon; the Subic-Clark Railway project; and the Mindanao Railway Project Phase 1 which will connect Tagum, Davao, and Digos through 100 kilometers of railways.

On the other hand, he said Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno, in a recent Cabinet meeting, reported that he has begun a dialogue with his counterpart in China to know whether they are still keen to extend official development assistance (ODA) loans and which projects in the rail sector they are interested in.

Following Marcos’ first State of the Nation Address, Diokno said the government would “revisit” its loan agreement with China for the three railway projects to be resubmitted to the National Economic and Development Authority “just in case.”

Earlier, the Chinese Embassy issued a statement vowing to “tap its own advantage and support the Philippines to improve its infrastructure” but failed to mention on the funding for the three railway projects.

The embassy said China has so far helped the Philippines complete 17 projects, in addition to more than 20 projects underway, and took note of how Covid-19 impacted the implementation of some projects by “hindering” site availability and “causing delays” in procurement. (PNA)