Thursday, April 14, 2016

Philippine National Railways and IRRI pledge continuing collaboration on right-of-way

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna—The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and Philippine National Railways (PNR) have formally agreed to continue collaboration to ensure a clear right-of-way for the Southern Railway line passing through IRRI's Zeigler Experiment Station on the campus of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB). The line is part of railway improvements under the planned North-South Railway Project (NSRP).

Mr. Dilay and Dr. Tolentino signed an MOA after discussing the Government's
plan to construct a railway that will pass through IRRI. 
The NSRP includes the upgrading of the tracks and the establishment of a train depot and station at Los Baños, at a site currently part of the area leased to IRRI by the University of the Philippines system.

The train depot, which reportedly might begin to be constructed sometime in the first half of 2017, is expected to take at least four years to complete. The station will serve as the main southern terminal of the commuter line running from Tutuban in Manila to Los Baños.

"At peak operation, there will be a train coming from Manila to Los Baños every 10 minutes," said Mr. Joseph Allan Dilay,  PNR general manager. "Besides the daily commuter rail service, the NSRP will also develop and eventually offer a long-haul rail service from Manila to Matnog in Sorsogon, Bicol, and this would include new tracks and trains."

Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya explained, when bidding for the NSRP commenced last year, that the project will impact directly those at the grassroots level. "Those who have less in life, especially farmers and fisherfolk, will be given efficient means to expand their livelihood. This is our biggest project yet and it is for those who need it the most," he said.

Mr. Abaya underscored how a country's rail system is a driver for inclusive economic growth because it encourages trade and business activity and provides access to employment and educational opportunities. Thus, the reason why PNR—once a symbol of the country's economic progress—should be modernized into a safe, convenient, and efficient system.

"On behalf of PNR, we really appreciate that we have a partner in this development," said Dilay during the signing of the memorandum of agreement (MOA) with IRRI. "PNR is also negotiating with the university system because IRRI currently has a lease with the system that runs until 2025," said  V. Bruce J. Tolentino, IRRI's deputy director general for communication and partnerships. The university will certainly involve IRRI in its ongoing discussions with PNR as deemed appropriate.”

Dr. Tolentino said that IRRI respects the Philippine Government's plans and will adjust accordingly. "We just need to know in advance so that if any adjustments are needed, we will have adequate time to make them in our research program and associated investments," he said. "Once a rice experiment is in the ground then it must stay there until completion," he explained. "Research requires infrastructure, which will be affected by the Government's plans."  

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