More infra needed for access, connectivity: Romero

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ANGELES CITY — A member of the 16th Central Luzon Regional Development Council (RDC) yesterday asserted the need to develop more infrastructure for greater access and connectivity in the region.

“Central Luzon is one of the economic centers in the country and we are still growing in terms of investments and opportunities. Despite the pandemic, we are witnessing the resiliency of Clark Freeport Zone and Subic Bay Freeport Zone while the top developers in the country have also continued to build new communities here. Thus, we see the demand for more infrastructure to support the movement of people and logistics,” Renato G. Romero, the RDC private sector representative for infrastructure development, said.

Romero, who is also a director of the Pampanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (PamCham), said the national railway projects currently being implemented by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) in the region are necessary transport infrastructure that connect major economic centers.

Romero is referring to the 51-kilometer Malolos-Clark Railway Project (MCRP) and the 71-kilometer Subic-Clark Railway Project (SCRP).

MCRP is a passenger railway and a component of the North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR) that will link the New Clark City and Clark International Airport (CRK) to Manila.

SCRP, on the other hand, is a freight railway connecting Subic Bay Freeport Zone (SBFZ) and Clark Freeport Zone (CFZ). It will directly connect the Port of Subic Bay (PSB) and Clark International Airport (CRK).

Both projects are under the “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure development program of the Duterte administration and were approved by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) board in 2018.

Romero said that the SCRP can serve as an alternative mode of transport for locators moving their logistics between Clark and Subic and vice versa.

“We know that the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) is already being used by truckers but a freight train can be an option to companies moving large volumes of products, parts or raw materials. Actually, we need redundancy in infrastructure. In more developed countries, businesses have multiple options because there are different modes of transport available,” Romero explained.

Romero added that the freight railway will not only benefit Clark and Subic but will also serve the local business community. “Not only the locators of Clark and Subic could benefit from the project, even the local businesses in the region will be served. Eventually, the interconnection and interoperability of all these railways will help facilitate business operations all over Central Luzon and up north,” he said.

SCRP is part of the wider PNR Luzon System Development Framework which aims to improve access towards northern Luzon. The railway is expected to bring down the cost of logistics services, easen traffic, provide jobs, increase land valuation and attract more investors at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone and Clark Freeport Zone. The cargo railway is also seen to decongest traffic in Metro Manila, especially port traffic at the Manila Port.

“For us in the business sector, we appreciate any effort from the national government to develop support infrastructure for businesses and industries. The more options we have, the better. These railway projects will not only improve connectivity, but they will definitely spur new economic activities in North and Central Luzon as well,” Romero said.