MANILA, Aug. 10— The Department of Transportation (DOTr) is aiming to complete the resettlement of informal settlers residing along the right of way of the proposed Philippine National Railways (PNR) North and South rail lines by one and a half to two years.
DOTr Undersecretary for Railways Cesar Chavez said the right of way needs to be urgently addressed as it hampers the implementation of railway projects.
“We are allocating 1.5 to 2 years to complete the resettlement and acquisition of land area that are needed for the construction of PNR North and South lines,” he said during the Dutertenomics forum held Thursday afternoon at the Fairmont Hotel in Makati City.
Citing figures from the National Housing Authority (NHA), Chavez said that there are around 100,000 informal settlers living along the PNR line from Manila to Bicol region spanning more than 600 kilometers.
“From Manila to Batangas alone, there are 12,000 families. Calamba to Batangas 25,000 families and 400,000 families all the way from Quezon province to Bicol,” the DOTr official said.
“We are currently negotiating with the civil society groups and local government units to expedite the relocation of informal settlers,” he added.
In an interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA) at the sidelines of the forum, Chavez said the DOTr has allocated PHP54 billion for the resettlement of the informal settlers.
He said the NHA has a total of 50,000 housing units that are available for the relocation.
“We are negotiating to get a substantial number of units for the informal settlers,” Chavez said.
The department is looking at multiple options for the resettlement — through local government units by provinces or cities, Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), NHA or civil society organizations that have extensive credentials and track record in resettlement.
The PNR North Railway Project from Manila to Clark is expected to reduce travel time to just 55 minutes from the current two to three hours.
The rail line will have a total of 17 stations running from Tutuban passing through Marilao and Malolos and all the way to the Clark International Airport and the proposed New Clark City in Tarlac which will accommodate 350,000 passengers daily on its first year of operations.
According to the DOTr, the project will start construction in the last quarter of 2017 and will be completed by the last quarter of 2021. The project costs PHP255 billion and will be funded through official development assistance (ODA) from Japan.
Aside from the Manila-Clark railway project, Japan will likewise fund the Manila-Los Baños segment as part of the North-South Commuter Railway Project. China, on the other hand, will finance the PHP151 billion, 581 km. railway (known as the PNR South Long Haul) that will connect Matnog in Sosogon, and Batangas to the National Capital Region.
The DOTr intends to complete nearly 2,000 kilometers of railway during the Duterte administration.