Tuesday, August 9, 2016

(News Feature)Albayanos thank Duterte for NEDA approval of 3 major infra projects
By Johnny C. Nunez

LEGAZPI CITY, August 8 (PNA) -- Albayanos are ecstatically happy and thankful to President Rodrigo Duterte over the recent approval by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) of three major infrastructure projects, which they see as decisive growth propellers for their province and the entire Bicol region.

Delayed for a number of years, the three major transport infrastructure projects worth about Php 185.64 billion, were approved by the NEDA Board, chaired by President Duterte, on recommendation by the NEDA Investment Coordinating Committee (ICC).

Albayanos and other Bicolanos now look forward to what they expect to be an unprecedented economic boom for their area.

PDP-Laban Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda (Albay, 2nd District), as former Albay governor and chairman of both the Bicol Regional Development Council (BRDC) and the Luzon Area Development Committee (RDCOM) for nine and six years, respectively, have initiated and labored doubly hard to push them during the previous administration.

He identified the projects as the Php 170.7 billion- North-South Railways Project (NSRP) South Line, the Php 4.79-billion long delayed Bicol International Airport (BIA) in Daraga, Albay with an increase in its Passenger Terminal Building (PTB) Area, and the Php 10.15-billion Inclusive Partnerships for Agricultural Competitiveness (IPAC) project, in his province’s third district.

The three projects are among the first batch of NEDA approvals worth Php 300 billion under the new Duterte administration, 60 percent of which will benefit Bicol, especially Albay. They were recommended by the NEDA ICC to the board for final approval and release of funds.

The NSRP Southline and the BIA are projects Albayanos take pride in. Minutes after Salceda posted the news of the approval in his social media account, it gained more than a thousand likes and was flooded by comments from Albayanos thanking the Duterte administration for releasing their long awaited projects, with record speed.

Himself elated over the positive development on the stalled projects, Salceda said he was informed of their approval by Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and NEDA Director-General Ernesto M. Pernia and Department of Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno.

He said the Duterte administration wanted to fast track the rollout of infrastructure and development projects so that the lower income class, especially in the countryside, could immediately feel the effects of rapid economic growth. Faster deliberation and eventual approval await other major projects in the pipeline.

The 653-kilometer NSRP Southline, which runs from Tutuban in Manila to Legazpi and eventually to Matnog, Sorsogon was approved following several modifications, including the shift to the use of standard gauge, a newer and more internationally accepted technology. A monumental government project, Salceda said it would give about 24 percent economic returns to the countryside and is expected to offer massive growth opportunities for Bicol, particularly Albay, the regional center and hub. Formerly known as the Bicol Express, the link is the oldest rail system in Southeast Asia.

“I am privileged as former BRDC and Luzon RDCom chair to have contributed to this game changer infrastructure for countryside development,” Salceda shared.

As for the BIA, a new domestic-Principal Class 1 airport of international standards, the budget was maintained at Php 4.79 billion since the proposed changes would not entail additional cost, and the construction would be shorten to 2.5 years, he added.

The BIA is expected to open the floodgates for international tourism to the Bicol region, particularly Albay which is now a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, and an emerging global ecotourism destination. The IPAC, on the other hand, will particularly benefit Albay’s third district. It aims to enhance market access and competitiveness of smallholder farmers in the target clusters of agrarian reform communities. (PNA) RMA/JCN/EDS