Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Monday, July 14, 2008

Reopen North Rail probe – Sen. Gordon

By. Efren L. Danao - Manila Times

SEN. RICHARD Gordon said Wednesday that the Senate must reopen its inquiry into the $503-million North Rail project from Caloocan City to Clark in Pampanga, to determine whether it should still be pursued and whether graft had indeed punctuated its signing.

Gordon make the call in the light of reports that the China National Machinery and Equipment Corp. Group had backed off from the North Rail project and had reportedly threatened to take legal action against the government for allegedly failing to pay a cost over run of $229 million.

He said that in the 13th Congress, the Senate constituted itself as a committee of the whole and investigated the North Rail project.

“There has been no report. We should reopen it so there would be a closure,” he said.

He said that $299 million is a huge amount and if interests are included, there might be some doubts on whether the project is worth pursuing.

Gordon cited the cost of relocating informal settlers along railroad tracks as one of the main reasons for the high cost of project. The National Housing Authority reportedly spent about P6 billion to finish the relocation of 19,000 more families in the Pampanga side of Northrail.

“If we will be spending so much for relocation, then we are in effect rewarding the squatters,” Gordon said.

He said that many of these problems came about because the former chairman of the North Luzon railway Corp. kept on signing papers without carefully studying them.

Sen. Rodolfo Biazon said that the government and the legislature should study not only the financial aspects of the project but its economic effects, or on the transport of goods and people from Manila to some parts of Luzon and back.

Earlier, former Senate president Franklin Drilon urged the government to terminate the North Rail project and go after the people responsible for negotiating and implementing what he called “the greatest train robbery in history.”

Citing the poor implementation of the North Rail project, Drilon said the Arroyo administration has already spent P5.4 billion but “has nothing to show for it.”

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