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Monthly Archives: October 2011

Memorandum Order No. 25, Series 2011

I reproduce below a copy of the Memorandum Order No. 25, Series of 2011 issued by Malacanan Palace last October 26, 2011. The MO reconstitutes the Inter-Agency Technical Committee on Transport Planning (IATCTP) that is chaired by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA). The functions or responsibilities of the IATCTP are clear in the MO and reflects past duties and functions. What’s new in the MO is the inclusion of the academe, for the first time, as part of this committee that will be the venue for discussing matters pertaining to transport planning in the Philippines. The academe is represented in the MO by the University of the Philippines’ National Center for Transportation Studies and may be interpreted as a welcome development where government recognizes the potential contribution of the academe for improving transportation in the country.




WHEREAS, transportation infrastructure has the biggest share in the country’s infrastructure investment program and will continue to be among the critical drivers of the country’s economic growth;

WHEREAS, a number of government agencies are involved in transport planning activities within their respective areas of jurisdiction;

WHEREAS, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) is the primary policy, planning, programming, coordinating, implementing, regulating and administrative entity of the government in the promotion, development and regulation of dependable and coordinated transportation network in the country;

WHEREAS, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is the lead agency for the planning, design, construction and maintenance of the national road network, which continues to dominate the country’s transport system;

WHEREAS, the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) is mandated to facilitate the implementation of an integrated program for the planning, development, financing, operation and maintenance of ports or port districts in the country;

WHEREAS, the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) is tasked to integrate the development, promotion and regulation of the maritime industry in the country;

WHEREAS, the Philippine National Railways (PNR) is the first instrumentality of the government mandated to provide railway system and services within the integrated national transport system;

WHEREAS, the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA), by virtue of Executive Order (EO) 603, is responsible for the construction, operation, maintenance and/or lease of light rail transit systems in the country, which are recommended and envisioned to alleviate traffic and transportation situation in a congested metropolitan area within the context of rational land use planning;

WHEREAS, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is tasked, among others, to coordinate development planning, transportation and traffic management, urban renewal and land use planning, urban protection, pollution control and public safety in Metro Manila which is the country’s premier economic and financial capital;

WHEREAS, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), created on 04 March 2008 by virtue of Republic Act (RA) 9497, is mandated to be the technical regulator of air transport;

WHEREAS, the University of the Philippines-National Center for Transportation Studies (UP-NCTS) aims to, among others, conduct research activities on transportation, provide extension services to various government agencies and the private sector, and provide information services on transportation; and,

WHEREAS, transportation affects the country’s economic development and therefore there is a need to effectively coordinate its planning and policy formulation process led by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) in order to achieve the objectives of sustainable economic growth in the country.

NOW, THEREFORE, in consideration of the foregoing premises, the IATCTP is hereby reconstituted in view of the important roles of the other transport agencies in achieving a comprehensive and integrated coordination function in transport planning. The Committee shall now be composed of the following:

Deputy Director-General, NEDA-National Development Office – Chairperson
Assistant Director-General, NEDA-National Development Office – Member
Director, NEDA-Infrastructure Staff – Member
Director, NEDA-National Planning and Policy Staff – Member
Director, NEDA-Project Monitoring Staff – Member
Director, UP-NCTS – Member
Head of Planning Service/Unit, DOTC – Member
Head of Planning Service/Unit, DPWH – Member
Head of Planning Service/Unit, PPA – Member
Head of Planning Service/Unit, MARINA – Member
Head of Planning Service/Unit, PNR – Member
Head of Planning Service/Unit, LRTA – Member
Head of Planning Service/Unit, MMDA – Member
Head of Planning Service/Unit, CAAP – Member

The Committee shall continue to perform the following duties and functions:

a. Formulate and recommend to the NEDA Board Committee on Infrastructure (INFRACOM) comprehensive and integrated transport plans;

b. Formulate standards and guidelines for the preparation of agency plans for transport development;

c. Develop a transport information system that shall serve the information needs of all transport planning and other relevant agencies;

d. Coordinate the conduct of studies, researches and data-gathering on various aspects of the transport sector;

e. Formulate areas of cooperation and coordination among the various agencies and instrumentalities of the government involved in transport programs and projects to avoid duplication of efforts;

f. Provide the NEDA Board with up-to-date information needed in the review and evaluation of transport plans and projects; and

g. Serve as a forum for the resolution of operational problems of transport agencies.

The Committee shall submit to the NEDA Board INFRACOM any issues/concerns that require adoption/resolution by the latter.

The Committee shall meet for the purpose of discharging its functions and may create sub-committees as may be necessary. Other relevant transport agencies and organizations may also be invited to attend meetings when warranted.

The NEDA Infrastructure Staff shall provide secretariat services to the Committee.

All heads of departments, bureaus, offices and instrumentalities of the government are hereby requested to extend full cooperation and assistance to the Committee to ensure the successful execution of its tasks.

This Memorandum Order (MO) shall take effect immediately and shall supersede MO 473 (1974).

DONE, in the City of Manila, this 26th day of October in the year of our Lord Two Thousand and Eleven.


By the President:


Executive Secretary

Tracing tracks 2

Following are a few more photos from a trip to Naga City back in 2009. These photos take off from a previous posting where I featured the tracks of the PNR’s Main Line South, mainly what a traveler may see along the national highway en route to Naga City. Many of these tracks were not being used by any trains at the time due to a suspension of services after an incident a few years back when a Bicol Express train was derailed somewhere in Quezon. Most of the tracks one will see here have already been rehabilitated as the PNR has resumed the service between Manila and Naga City. In fact, they have taken advantage of the long weekend for All Saints’ Day (Undas) to promote the Bicol Express service that now features sleeping cars. The approximate travel time between Manila and Naga is 12 hours.

A railway bridge in Naga City – note the classic steel truss design that was the mainstay of most PNR bridges.

Another steel truss bridge – this one I photographed prior to the provincial boundary with Quezon province.

Rail junction along the national highway – this junction is located in the town of Gumaca. The signs are already obscured by tree branches and electric poles. At the time, one could see the state of neglect for the tracks as they are practically covered by dirt that transforms into mud during rainy days.

The railway tracks parallel to a barangay road – many sections again appear to be covered by dirt and growth. A tricycle is parked atop the tracks, probably waiting for passengers on space that is being used as a shoulder with respect to the local road. As communities have access to local roads, there are no trolleys here.

Neglected railway tracks – note the grass growing along the tracks and covering the rails. Also, from the looks of it some ties seem to be missing or just buried in the dirt. Many houses and shanties are obviously within the 30m ROW of the PNR. Such situations create a high risk for untoward incidents should rail services become regular and more frequent.

Informal rail transport

After my talk at the Ateneo De Naga, we went around the city to have a look at its roads and transport. As we had already seen the previous day that there were motorized trolleys in that city, we made it a point to visit one informal terminal located at a junction. The following photos are a documentation of our taking a closer look at informal rail transport in the Philippines.

Taking a closer look at the motorized trolleys of Naga City – our driver Roy speaks to two drivers/operators of the trolleys to ask them about operations. The trolleys are not so much different from the one we saw along the road while traveling through the towns of Quezon Province and certainly look like their relatives in Manila. They are made of light but sturdy bamboo with the occasional metal parts and some have makeshift couplers in case two or three are connected to form trains! The trolleys even have benches to allow for a few seated passengers.

Passenger mix – the trolley service is popular to different users including students and laborers. They are cheap and the most practical (direct) mode of transport to their home, which are located along the railway line. Note the concrete ties for the tracks, indicative that this section has already undergone rehabilitation in the past when the old wooden sleepers were replaced by concrete ties.


Informal freight transport – goods like rice and flour are also transported using the trolleys. I assume there are also stores in communities along the tracks and that the most convenient way of transporting commodities (paninda) would be via this mode.

Motor power – while most if not all the trolleys in Manila are human-powered (partly because they should be light enough to lift in case trains do come given the increasing frequency of PNR commuter line services), the Naga trolleys use motors similar to that being used by boats.

Driving wheel – while trains may be powered by locomotives, the trolleys have motors typically used by pumpboats and by the tricyboats found in the Visayas and Mindanao (tricycles powered by the same motors). The driving wheel is connected to the motor to move the vehicle and the contraption on the lower right and just beside the driving wheel is the brake mechanism. Thus, the driver is usually positioned just behind the motor where he has access to both the motor and the brakes.

Fully loaded – a single trolley can carry as many as 25 passengers depending on their weight and size (more if there are many children in the mix). I think there are about 24 passengers on this trolley about to depart from the informal terminal.

 Off they go – with a full load and each person paying 10 pesos for the ride, the driver can earn about 200 pesos for one run or 400 for a roundtrip. Operating costs are quite simple including fuel and maintenance costs. On a typical busy day, a driver can have about 5 round-trips. Note how close houses are to the railway tracks.

Next in line – the driver of the next trolley positions his vehicle and waits for passengers. We estimated it took something like 15 to 20 minutes to get a full load during the afternoon peak period when we were at the informal terminal. It would probably be longer during the off-peak periods.

A view of the tracks on the other side of the road – we learned that the area along the tracks is not served by the trolleys.

I can imagine that with the resumption of the Bicol Express service between Manila and Naga City, the people operating the trolleys would eventually have to deal with more frequent arrival of trains. Currently, the PNR services would probably pass through the trolleys’ service areas during the night-time so there will be very limited conflict at present. However, further rehabilitation of the Main Line South and the resumption of services all the way to Legaspi City should already serve as a notice to informal rail transport and the concerned local governments that the days of the trolleys are numbered.

EST and Green Urbanism

I had the great opportunity of presenting excerpts of the National Environmentally Sustainable Transport Strategy (NESTS) and talk about its implementation at the local level at the recently concluded Green Urbanism Conference. The Conference was organized by the School of Urban and Regional Planning (SURP) of the University of the Philippines Diliman in cooperation with the Faculty of Design of Kyushu University, with support from various partners including AusAID. It ran from October 18-20, 2011 at the Heritage Hotel Manila, featuring a variety of topics divided into 5 sessions namely:

  • Green Cities
  • Green Architecture and Ecological Landscapes
  • Green Infrastructure
  • Environmentally Sustainable Transport
  • Developing Climate and Disaster Resilient Urban Centers
More details on the conference are available from the SURP’s homepage. Meanwhile, I reproduce the concluding section of the paper below for a quick look at the paper’s content:

“This paper presented current and past efforts focusing on sustainable transport. Many of these are continuing especially the promotion of good practices in EST that emanate from the national strategy that was recently formulated. The national EST strategy identifies action plans and the corresponding responsible agencies or entities. The key competencies and skill sets that will enable cities to formulate and implement meaningful programs and projects were also presented. More importantly, the paper examined the capacities of cities for transportation planning and recommended for collaborative agreements with local universities with sustainability in mind.

The general observation has been that LGUs are often unaware that certain programs and projects they are implementing or planning actually fall under EST. As such, they are unable to package their programs and projects in a way that can be attractive to both local and foreign support. One main objective of social marketing for EST is to assist cities by capacitating them with the fundamentals they would need to undertake projects geared towards sustainable transport.

The strategies developed for each EST thematic area are collectively called the national strategy and implies responsibility of a national agency for its implementation. Upon closer scrutiny, however, it must be realized that significant impacts will only be attained if EST is successfully implemented at the local level. The role of national agencies such as the DOTC and the DENR is to provide guidance and capacity to cities for the latter to be able to come up with meaningful programs and projects. After all, while big ticket EST projects may be initiated by national agencies, their success will be determined by how these are implemented at the local level. In the Philippines, cities have been empowered for such purposes and localizing national programs and strategies would be essential in addressing enduring and emerging problems concerning transport and traffic.”

The full paper may be downloaded from the link below:

Tracing tracks

Traveling to and from the Bicol region back in 2009, I tried to trace the PNR’s Main Line South railway tracks that passed through the provinces of Quezon and Camarines Sur. Following are a few snapshots while traveling on-board our trusty Pajero. I don’t remember the towns where I took the photos mainly because I didn’t keep tabs about the info. However, I’m sure these can be retraced and recorded in another, future trip to Bicol. I hope readers don’t mind the reflections in some of the photos due mainly to our vehicle’s window tint.

Railway tracks along a barrio in Quezon – while the rails are there, it seems many of the ties (sleepers) are either missing or already covered in soil. Note the houses that have encroached on the PNR ROW? They are well within the 30 meter ROW of the PNR tracks and will surely be affected should there be capacity expansion (read: double tracks) in the future.

Tracks embedded on the national highway – while the old signs are still present in some junctions with roads, most are either unreadable because of wear or hidden among the posts and flora. These, too, need upgrading and should already include traffic signals and barriers to warn road traffic of an approaching train.

The switch assembly on the right indicates diverging tracks probably in the vicinity of a station somewhere downstream from where I hurriedly took a photo.

Railway tracks seemingly diverging from the highway – in this case, the photo strongly suggests the absence of ties to hold the tracks and prevent derailment. Much of what’s left of both MLS and MLN are in this condition and in the case of MLS requires intense rehabilitation to ensure the safety of travel. I can only imagine how trains should slow down during the wet season when the soil turns to mud in many sections.

The signs are not so noticeable especially when motorists are driving quite fast along roads with very good pavements. I don’t think the railway signs comply with current standards of reflectivity and are already partly hidden from effective view by the trees and structures along the roadside. The tracks just ahead and crossing the highway are almost hidden due to the highway pavement. Asphalt overlays may tend to cover rails that are embedded on the highway.

My first look at the motorized trolleys of Quezon – this photo shows what seems to be a terminal for two type of paratransit: the road-based tricycle (left) and the rail-based trolley (right). Being a convergence point for passengers, there are stores and eateries in the area. Note again the condition of the tracks where the wooden ties are still visible.

The photo above is my last snapshot of the railways prior to us using the bypass road on our way to Naga City. We also encountered heavy rains that prevented me from taking more photos during our drive. Thus, I was only able to take some more snapshots when we were already in Naga City.

Rail crossing in Naga City – the signs again are obscured by other structures along the road. There are practically no safety devices at the time that could prevent crashes involving trains. Of course, at the time, the train service to Bicol were still suspended so there were none that could have had conflicts with road-based traffic.

Railway tracks in Naga City – the tracks here seem to be in good condition despite the suspension of train services at the time. Noticeable too is the fact that while there is clearly encroachment on the PNR ROW, the houses have at least some space between them and the tracks unlike the case of Manila. Note that in the Bicol region, the PNR uses a single track rather than a double track system. Future capacity expansion (and I’m crossing my fingers here) would require a double track system to permit increased two way traffic once the trains regain popularity.

Next: the trolleys of Naga City

Conflicting flows – driver and rider behavior in the vicinity of flyovers

Typical issues concerning traffic flow along sections approaching or departing from the ramps of vehicular overpasses or flyovers include weaving. Simple observations will reveal that a significant number of vehicles, regardless of whether private or public, passenger or freight, big or small, have a propensity to change lanes before and after a flyover. Such weaving behavior is a consequence of driving behavior in this country where many drivers and riders often are unmindful of planning their trips as well as the proper positioning of their vehicles while using the road. Many drivers and riders seem intent only in bypassing points of congestion and do not have any respect at all for the rights of other road users as well as for the rule of law along highways and streets.

I took the opportunity of taking a few photos after an interview conducted atop the pedestrian overpass along Commonwealth across from Puregold and near the Tandang Sora flyover. Below are a few photos taken during nightfall on Monday showing typical behavior of drivers and riders in the vicinity of the foot of the Tandang Sora flyover.

Jeepneys occupying five (5) northbound lanes of Commonwealth Avenue, including the lane designated for motorcycles (delineated by the blue lines) – Most public utility vehicle drivers in the Philippines seem to abhor queuing and the prevailing practice is for most of them to try to bypass others by encroaching along the middle lanes. Instead of a First In First Out (FIFO) discipline that is desirable for conventional public transport operations, its more like a Last In First Out (LIFO) state along loading/unloading areas.

Buses joining the fray of vehicles in the same area – Note that practically 4 to 5 lanes of Commonwealth are occupied by buses, jeepneys and AUVs, effectively blocking motorcycles from using the lane designated for them. Such behavior in the vicinity of the foot of the Tandang Sora flyover also influences private vehicles to shift towards the inner lanes of the highway and unto the path of vehicles descending the flyover.

Motorcycles (they with the single headlights) using the 5th and 6th lanes of Commonwealth – riders have no choice in this situation where PUVs have occupied the motorcycle lane and behave as if they are the the only road users in the area. PUVs are observed as generally oblivious of the fact that road space is to be shared and basic courtesy is a requirement for smooth and safe flow to occur.

As the traffic flow decreases, partly due to the control imposed by the traffic signal upstream at the Tandang Sora intersection, lanes become less congested – motorcycles are then able to return to their designated lane.

The chaotic situation shown in the photos could have been prevented or corrected if enforcers were in the area to manage traffic. There were none in the area, and I only found a few of them a couple of hundred meters downstream apprehending riders where traffic is already free-flowing. I thought perhaps that instead of focusing on apprehending riders, these enforcers were better off trying to address the mess upstream of their position. It is always both frustrating and disappointing to see enforcers diligently doing their jobs in the wrong locations along our highways. And all too often, the drivers and riders they apprehend are not the ones guilty of constricting traffic or posing dangers upon other motorists.

Motorcycle lanes – a few comments

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) recently established motorcycle lanes along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City and Macapagal Boulevard in Pasay City. The main intention is to reduce crashes involving motorcycles by attempting to segregate them from other vehicles in traffic. Following are a few photos I took this afternoon along Commonwealth where I observed the MMDA painting blue lines to mark the motorcycle lane. In this case, the lane is the 4th from the outer edge (shoulder) of the highway.

Newly painted blue lines mark the motorcycle lanes. Photo shows riders following the new policy, probably knowing that getting apprehended will lead to a 15-minute lecture on motorcycle safety. Such a penalty will only be applicable this week when the MMDA is implementing a dry-run of the policy. From Monday next week, the penalty would be a 500-peso fine for every apprehension.

Pavement markings for the motorcycle lane along Commonwealth. Note that the lane is quite close to the lanes designated for public utility vehicles like jeepneys and buses. This situation creates a high potential for the occurrence of crashes involving motorcycles and PUVs. Of particular concern is the behavior of PUVs, especially buses that tend to encroach upon the lanes to the left of the PUV lanes including the motorcycle lane. Another issue is the fact that private vehicles are allowed along the motorcycle lanes and not just for maneuvering. I share the opinion of riders that motorcycle lanes should be for motorcycles only.

First battery swap program for E-jeepney

I am posting a press release from the proponents of the electric jeepney about the first battery swap program launch this morning. The program will allow for the continuous operations of the e-jeepney in Makati,  extending its operating hours as they are no longer limited by the depletion of their batteries. This program will surely have a significant impact on how e-vehicles (not just e-jeepneys) are deployed and presents a model for local government units who are at least curious about having the electric vehicles (perhaps) to replace conventional public transport in their respective cities. This should be a game-changer in the promotion of EST in the Philippines.

Electric jeepney fleet proponent pioneers country’s first battery swap program

(October 19, Manila) The pioneer of the country’s first electric jeepney fleet unveiled this morning an innovative battery swap scheme which its proponents expect “to dramatically improve the efficiency and revenue generation of eJeepney operators.” Over thirty guests, including 22 British volunteers headed to Bohol on Friday for climate change solidarity work, graced the occasion.

“With a little practice, we expect the battery change to take the whole of 10 minutes, which is like a common stop in a gasoline station. The previous eight-hour charging process becomes a thing of the past with this program. It means eJeepney drivers can use their vehicles for a longer period and reduce battery depreciation as well,” said iCSC executive director Red Constantino.

Constantino said “green aims must be coupled with robust economic benefits. We anticipate double earnings for operators, which is superb since we’re already saving a huge amount just because we’re using electricity instead of gasoline to power the vehicles.”

The Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, which owns and operates the celebrated eJeepney fleet in Makati City, designed and fabricated the battery program with the support of the British Embassy in Manila. Also known as iCSC, the group is implementing the program in partnership with private sector groups Ejeepney Transport Corp (EJTC) and Motolite.

The scheme is based on a simple roll-off, roll-on logistical set-up, using eJeepneys retrofitted with battery trays and a battery loading bay at the eJeepney depot. A dispatcher rolls out spent battery sets of an eJeepney and replaces it with a fully charged set through a palette lifter manufactured by iCSC.

“Ejeepneys represent carry huge business potential and improvements in operations such as this scheme can create new revenue streams for groups interested not just in eJeepney operations but in battery leasing as well,” said the CEO of EJTC, Yuri Sarmiento.

“We are with you not as passengers but as partners. Together, we can steer our way to a brighter, more sustainable and prosperous future,” said Trevor Lewis, the British Embassy’s Deputy Head of Mission in remarks made during the event.

“Our company is determined to invest in the future of this country and we are elated to be part of this venture,” said Arnold Sarmiento, who represented leading Philippine battery manufacturer Oriental Motolite.

The battery swapping project aims to accelerate the expansion of electric public utility vehicle applications in the Philippines by increasing the operating time of electric jeepney fleets while reducing time used to charge eJeepney batteries. The pilot test period will take place from October 19, 2011 to February 14, 2012. Partners in the initiative hope data from the project can promote a more rapid transition to low carbon transport in the Philippines.

The battery swapping system is located in Makati City’s Fire Station, the site of the country’s first battery-charging station for electric vehicles. Ejeepney units plying the country’s first two routes – the Legazpi Village loop and the Salcedo Village loop — will utilize the battery swap pilot system, which will be run by iCSC, EJTC, Motolite and Makati City jointly.

“We thank the British Embassy in Manila for their support of the city’s endeavors. We are committed to build a low carbon future together with climate change-resilient development,” said Makati City transportation consultant Ernie Camarillo.

iCSC works on fair climate policy and innovative energy solutions for localities. It is the pioneer of the Climate-Friendly Cities project, which integrates sustainable waste management and renewable energy generation with electric public transport alternatives.

Railways in Luzon – Main Line South

In a previous post, I talked about the recent developments concerning the PNR and provided an historical perspective of railway development in Luzon Island, particularly focusing on the Main Line North and its branches. The MLN, of course, is no longer operating with proverbial nail in the coffin hammered by the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991, when lahar buried much of what was left of the lines in Pangasinan, Tarlac and Pampanga. Various initiatives have been put forward since the 1990’s to revive a portion of the MLN but in the form of a rail service connecting Clark with Manila. This is the Northrail project that has seen so much anticipation because of its promise of finally reviving railways for Central Luzon by providing access to what is being touted as the future main international airport at Clark, the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA). The continuing saga concerning what seems to be a struggle in putting up Northrail is certainly worth another post. Meanwhile, we focus on the Main Line South for today’s feature. The figure below illustrates the extent of the MLS, significant sections of which have been rehabilitated.

The PNR Main Line South (Source: PNR)

The MLS was constructed starting in the early 1900’s and can be quite tricky to establish given that many refer to it also by another familiar name: the “Bicol Express.” The invention of the latter term though was only applicable from 1938 when the first trains finally traversed the entire stretch from Manila to Legaspi, Albay. Construction for the southern line and its branches started in Manila and included the rail developments in Batangas, Cavite and Laguna that was later extended all the way to Aloneros in Guinayangan, Quezon. From here, it finally linked up with a line that started construction in Legaspi and proceeded northwards along the Bicol region until Ragay, Camarines Sur. (Reference: Corpuz, 1999 and PNR)

  • The Main Line South started from Manila and covers practically the same route as today’s commuter and Bicol line all the way to Quezon and the Bicol Region. Construction started from two points representing the end stations of Manila and Legaspi with the northern segment terminating at Aloneros (Guinayangan, Quezon) and the southern segment at Ragay, Camarines Sur. The gap was eventually connected through Tagkawaya, Quezon in 1938.
  • The Cavite Line ran from Manila to Naic via Paranaque and Bacoor for a total of 44 km, and was completed in 1908. The line was eventually abandoned in 1936.
  • The Canlubang Branch is 7 km and emanated from what is currently the commuter line from Mamatid in Cabuyao, Laguna. It was completed in 1909.
  • The Santa Cruz Branch started from Calamba and extended to Sta. Cruz and terminated at Pagsanjan, Laguna for a total of 46 km. Completed in 1912, continued contruction towards the towns of Rizal could have realized a railway line connecting the coastal towns of Laguna De Bay.
  • The Batangas Branch is a 43 km network from Luta in what is now Malvar, Batangas to Bauan via Lipa and Batangas City. Completed in 1912, the Batangas-Bauan segment was abandoned in 1936.
The PNR continues in the rehabilitation of its tracks and stations along the MLS and has already re-activated trips between Manila and Naga with trains leaving the stations at 6:30 PM and arriving at the other end about 12 hours later. The news mention sleeping cars and other amenities already available on these trains, and hopefully, the Bicol Express will run all the way to Legaspi before the year ends. Such are very encouraging and exciting developments for a system that is essential yet has seen only neglect in the past decades. Hopefully too, the developments are sustained and we shall reap the benefits from a revitalized rail system in Luzon.

PNR Field Trip in 2003 – Part 3

At the end of our field visit to the PNR yard in Tutuban, our group was treated to a free ride to the Buendia (Gil Puyat Ave.) Station. Some of us sat on the last car so we were afforded a view of the railway tracks and the environment along the PNR right of way. The result is a set of photos that I like to call “a peep into the train’s backdoor.”

At the time, there were no rehabilitation work along the commuter line and one could clearly see the state of the tracks that could easily lead to derailment. Communities were dangerously close to the tracks as many informal settlers have encroached upon the PNR ROW. There is even a makeshift basketball court in the middle of the tracks. Thus, trains moved quite slowly partly because of the tracks and partly because of the people, mostly children who routinely cross the path of the train.

People have set up benches between the tracks and tambays are often found drinking or gambling, of the dangers posed by the trains.

Absent at the time were the trolleys that serve as informal transportation for communities along the line. These trolleys were generally human-powered, pushed by their operators and taking advantage of the the tracks and the unseen slopes to generate momentum and speed. These trolleys were light enough that they could easily be removed in case a train happened to be passing. I have photos of trolleys from my trip to Bicol that I will be including in future posts.

It is said that the state of a country is clearly reflected in the conditions or situation of its transportation system. I guess the photo above gives us a pretty good picture of where the Philippines is right now if only we can deduce the essential elements from the photo. We have children wandering about and not getting the education they need to become productive members of society. This, despite primary and secondary eduction being free and compulsory. We have a problem concerning waste disposal that definitely has environmental consequences, not to mention a contribution to the perennial problems of flooding. We also have a housing problem where affordable, well-located housing is generally unavailable thereby attracting people to informal settlements. In the latter case, some settlements seem to be encouraged by local politicians if not local governments as they provide cheap votes come election time. And of course, there’s our transport system that needs a lot of attention if only to fix the results of failures in transport planning.

Need I say more?