Three committees of the House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a priority measure restructuring the Philippine National Railway System (PNRS).
In a joint hearing, House Committees on Government Enterprises, Legislative Franchise and Transportation endorsed for plenary approval a substitute bill creating of the Philippine National Railway Authority (PNRA).
Under the bill, the PNRA shall regulate all aspects of the operations of railway corporations, while its board of directors shall set the necessary routes, fares and standards on safety and security.
The bill also mandates the authority to establish three separate corporations—the Luzon Railway Corp., Visayas Railway Corp. and Mindanao Railway Corp.—to operate railways in Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao. The corporations shall exist for a term of 50 years, and renewable for another 50.
The measure said the authorized capital stock of each corporation shall be P30 billion, while 20 percent, or P6 billion, shall be initially paid up and the balance shall be paid from a continuing annual appropriation of not less than P2 billion.
However, the bill said railway operators are required to secure a franchise from Congress.
It said operators with an existing franchise or concession agreement with any government agency are granted three years to secure a legislative franchise.
The measure also contains penal provisions for acts harmful to the sustainability and safety of trains, tracks, equipment and other assets, including the safety and security of the riding public.
The committees also accepted an amendment, which prohibits the issuance of restraining orders and preliminary injunctions.
“No court in the Philippines shall have the jurisdiction to issue any restraining order, preliminary injunction or preliminary mandatory injunction in any case, dispute or controversy involving any contract or project being implemented by the authority, to prohibit any person or persons, or entity or government official from proceeding with or continuing on the execution or implementation of such contract or project, or pursuing any lawful activity necessary for the execution, implementation or operation of such railway project or system,” the bill said.
In addition, the committee members agreed that professional experience specific to public and railway transportation shall be required of the PNRA Administrator, such as 35 years of age, good moral character, and recognized executive ability and competence in transportation, business administration, management, finance, or law.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, one of the principal authors of the measure, said the national railway system is essential to the development of a country.
“An efficient, reliable and convenient railway system provides the necessary mobility and efficiency to its passengers. It also facilitates the movement and trade and goods and services,” Alvarez said in the bill’s explanatory note.
He said although the Philippine has operating railways, the country fails far behind in contrast to its neighbors.
“The current regulatory framework, or the lack thereof, has not addressed the daily problems of the train system of the country. To date, LRT (Light Rail Transit) 1, LRT 2, and MRT (Metro Rail Transit) 3 operations have not successfully regulated the existing railway systems in ensuring that they are efficient, safe and comfortable modes of transportation,” Alvarez said.
“As for Visayas and Mindanao, there is no railways system in place which can render necessary services in the transport of goods and people around these areas,” he said.
According to Alvarez, the absence of functioning railways and trains in Visayas and Mindanao have hampered the potential for economic growth and development in these areas.