Senator Joel Villanueva called the country’s biggest railway project “a huge job generator” which should prompt the country’s schools to offer railway engineering and technology courses.

Villanueva said the Philippine National Railways South Long Haul project (PNR Bicol) would require trained and skilled manpower to run and operate it.

The government should start a national program to produce “a cadre of railway technology experts” in select universities, the veteran legislator said.

At present, the Polytechnic University of the Philippines is offering a graduate program in railway engineering.

The Commission on Higher Education also has a memorandum of agreement with the Department of Transportation for the continuing training of railway technicians and engineers.

The seasoned lawmaker called to fast-track the expansion of these initiatives to more institutions as he visits the Bicol Region.

“The modernized and extended Bicol Express is a game-changer.”

The reelectionist senator described the “modernized and extended Bicol Express” as a game-changer that will safely and cheaply move people and their produce from and within three regions – Metro Manila, CALABARZON, and Bicol.

He likewise urged TESDA to ensure accessibility of programs for skilling, upskilling, and reskilling of workers, especially in the construction sector, to successfully implement and construct the government’s infrastructure projects.

Villanueva defended the agency’s 2022 budget and advocated for the inclusion of P1.515 billion under the Tulong Trabaho Law, which will extend industry-approved training for its beneficiaries.

He made the call for the government “to lay the educational groundwork for the country’s railway future” after it awarded last month the P142 billion contract to build the line’s first 380 kilometers from Banlic, Calamba to Daraga, Albay.

Villanueva is also eyeing railway jobs as significant components in the National Employment Recovery Strategy in its aim to create 2 million jobs.

He also said that railway jobs are also part of the job creation aspect in the continuation of the present administration’s Build, Build, Build initiative.

“The PNR Bicol project is expected to generate more than 5,000 jobs per year during construction.”

According to the DOTr, the PNR Bicol project is expected to generate more than 5,000 jobs per year during construction.

Once running, the project will span 560 kilometers and will be served by 35 stations.

Originating from Manila, it will run through Laguna, Quezon, Camarines Sur, Albay, and Sorsogon.

It will also have a spur line to Batangas, passing through the cities of Santo Tomas, Lipa, and Batangas.

Villanueva said the planned rail line “is a powerful economic stimulus, a catalyst of development and above all a clean mode of transportation”.

“It will displace fossil fuels that will be used by cars. It will save dollars, save us from pollution. It will also save commuters travel time,” he said.

Designed to run at speeds of up to 160 kilometers per hour, Bicol Express coaches will cut travel time between Manila to Legazpi City from the present 14 to 18 hours to 4 hours and 30 minutes using the line’s express trains.

The DOTr and the PNR eye the line to be completed in 2024, and to start commercial runs in the third quarter of 2025.



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