The Philippines focuses its investments on a modern railway network

The Government has launched an infrastructure plan from 2017 to 2022 (Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022) with which it wishes to gradually increase investment until reaching the target of 7% of the annual GDP for 2022. The railway is one of the main centrepieces of this action.


The Republic of the Philippines, with an area of ​​300,000 km2, is an archipelago containing 7,100 islands located in Southeast Asia, east of Vietnam, south of Taiwan. It is surrounded by the Philippine Sea to the east, the Celebes Sea to the south and the South China Sea to the west. It has a population of 102 million inhabitants, the largest in the region after Indonesia. Its constant progress in recent years suggests that it will be amongst the 16 largest world economies in 2050.

The IMF forecasts indicate that the Philippine economy will maintain its growth at rates of around 7% during the coming years (2022). To continue with this development, the Government has launched the infrastructure plan 2017-2022 (Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022) with which it aims to gradually increase investment levels until reaching the 7% annual GDP target for 2022, which would be equivalent to 170 billion euros in five years. In 2018, an amount of 1,169.5 billion Philippine pesos (€19.7 billion) was approved.

This ambitious programme has been dubbed the “Build Build Build Plan”. In addition, the Executive has decided to give continuity to the public-private partnership (PPP) projects embarked upon by the previous Government in matters of transport (metro and light rail, airports).

With this new medium-term projection, the purpose is to give a historic boost to transport with the aim of achieving modern networks that respond to the growing needs of the population. Certain aims that take into account the orography of the country that, in many cases, makes it difficult to start up new routes. Chapter 19 of this programme, entitled “Accelerating the Infrastructures’ Development”, highlights the flagship role of the railway. The current network, as indicated in this section, will be expanded through the development of new lines on the main island regions. In accordance with the aim of increasing this means of transport compared to vehicular traffic, in the new projects priority will be given to the right of way, both on passenger and freight lines. Likewise, to avoid future issues involving connectivity and interoperability, the use of standard width (1,435 mm) will be implemented for works in the processing stage. Broadly speaking, in this rehabilitation process the recovery of the railway is sought out through the connection of the north and south of the Island of Luzon; the expansion of the metro network in Manila that is forecast to offer new lines; and the increase of the airport network for regional transport, along with the 2,000 kilometre rail system on the Island of Mindanao.


The railway network is entirely on the Island of Luzon, which has an area of ​​104,688 km², meaning it is the world’s seventeenth largest island. Therein, both the capital of the country, Manila, and its most populous city, Quezon are located.

This route is divided into three areas: Manila metropolitan area (26 kilometres), Manila-Legazpi section (480 kilometres) and Northrail, in the northern zone that is currently without service. There are two more sections on the islands of Panay and Negros, which are not operational either. The sector is composed of the public railway company, Philippine National Railways (PNR), which owns the network and is also in charge of the commercial operation; the Light Rail Transit System or Metro Rail Transit (MRT 3) and the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA). All of them are dependent on the Ministry of Transport and Communications (DOTC). There is also Northrail, the deputy agency of the Department of Transportation that is entrusted with the construction, operation and management of the rail systems that provide services to Metro Manila, Central and Northern Luzon.

Upward investments

Of all the forecast plans, the most pertinent are those that have been recently approved by the Investment Coordination Committee (ICC) of the Board of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) of the Philippines. There are three railway projects whose total value stands at 9.110 billion euros. This involves the Mindanao network, several commuter connections, interchange stations with other transport modes, refurbishment and expansion of the Manila light railway network, as well as the first underground subway network in the country.

Mindanao Railway Line

After two decades of feasibility studies, the renowned project “Mindanao Railway Network” will be released in the forthcoming fiscal year. It is a network that will boast 2,000 kilometres of track. The line will connect key urban centres in the south of the archipelago, including Davao, Zamboanga, Butuán, Surigao, Cagayande Oro, Iligan and General Santos. In addition, there will be a new bridge that will unite the central islands of Panay, Guimarás and Negros. Likewise, it will be extended to the main ports and other entry gateways. The idea is to provide Mindanao with modern railways and state-of-the-art rolling stock. In the first stage will be carried out the construction of the commuter section, 108 kilometres, which will link the cities of Taúm (Davao del Norte) and Digos (Davao del Sur). The estimated cost of the project is 31.504 billion pesos (531 million euros) and will be financed with local funds. The Deputy Secretary of Transportation of the country, Cesar Chavez, announced that the Department of Transportation (DOT) has already allocated 6,500 million pesos (109.5 million euros) for the acquisition of land and the preliminary engineering works involving the initial stage. In the second stage, the section will be carried out to the city of Butuán, while in the third stage, the network will extend to that of Cagayán de Oro. Finally, there will be a connection between this urban centre with Iligan and the Zamboanga peninsula.

 North-South railway project (NSRP)

This connection, known as (NSRP) aims to reactivate the railroad on the Island of Luzon. The purpose is to provide better transport and logistics services between two fast-growing urban regions. The project has an estimated cost of 285 billion Philippine pesos (4.801 billion euros) and will be financed through the Official Development Assistance (ODA). The Metro Manila area and the city of Legaspi, the capital of the province of Albay, will be connected via the ongoing project. The design includes a 581-kilometre long-distance network and a 56-kilometer commuter line that will go from Manila to the south to Calamba, in the province of La Laguna. Its implementation will be carried out jointly by the Department of Transportation and Communications of the Philippines (DOTC) and the country’s railways manager (PNR). Once under commercial operation, it is estimated that there will be ten daily trips, with seven trains stopping at 66 stations. It is also estimated that in the first year, 316,000 passengers will be carried per day.

Malolos-Clark connection

The Malolos-Clark project (MCRP) will be carried out in two stages. The first one from Malolos, in the province of Bulacan, to Clark International Airport, northwest of Manila. In the second stage, the route will be extended to Clark’s Green City. The project has an estimated cost of 211.43 billion Philippine pesos (3.5 billion euros). The construction will be financed through official assistance for the development of Japan (ODA), while operations and maintenance will be carried out through Public-Private Partnerships (PPP). This connection will connect with the ongoing Tutuban-Malolos portion of the Commuter Northbound – Southbound Railway.

Stage I will begin in the second quarter of 2019 and is expected to be completed in the year 2022. Stage II will be implemented between 2022 and 2024. With this new network, journey times from Manila to Clark International Airport will be reduced from two hours to 55 minutes. The Department of Transportation of the Philippines has already defined the first five stations, which will be built along a route of 106 kilometres. These stops will be in Marilao and Meycauayan in Bulacan, Valenzuela, Caloocan and Tutuban, in Metro Manila. A further 12 will be: Solís, Bocaue, Balagtas, Guiguinto, Malolos, Calumpit, Apalit, San Fernando, Angeles, Clark, Clark International Airport and the proposed New Clark City in Pampanga. The network will connect with the current Tutuban-Malolos part of the northbound-southbound rail project.