PH, China to sign ₱14-B loan for Bicol railway during Duterte-Xi meet

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 28) — The Philippines will sign another loan deal with China, this time to fund the construction of a railway line to the Bicol Region, a Transportation official said.

The Philippine and Chinese governments will sign a ₱14-billion credit line for the Philippine National Railways (PNR) South Haul project that would link Manila to Bicol, Transportation Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John Batan told CNN Philippines. This fulfills the project management consultancy component.

The loan deal, the third to be formally granted by China, would form part of the bilateral meetings led by President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Thursday.

Duterte will be in China until September 1, marking his fifth visit to the East Asian giant since assuming office mid-2016.

Spanning 639 kilometers, the PNR South Haul line is one of the projects identified for Chinese funding. Once operational, travel time from Manila to Legazpi City will be reduced to six hours from 13 hours. The entire project costs ₱175 billion.

Last week, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said the Philippines may also ink a loan deal for the ₱82.9-billion Mindanao railway project during the bilateral meetings scheduled in Beijing.

Two big-ticket projects are covered by official development assistance from China: the Chico River Dam Project that will supply irrigation in northern Luzon, and the Kaliwa Dam project that will serve as a new water source for Metro Manila. Of the two, only the Chico River project has begun.