The Role of the Philippine Railways Institute

Mass transport problems will hopefully be alleviated with the creation of Philippine Railways Institute (PRI), an agency mandated to improve the workforce behind railway transportation services.

Signed by President Duterte on November 21, Executive Order No. 96 says that the institute will plan, execute, regulate, and supervise the development of human resources in the railway industry, according to Rappler. The goal of the agency, which will be under the Department of Transportation (DOTr), is to ensure that transportation services made available to the public are efficient, reliable, and safe.

Among the functions of the institute is to create a comprehensive human resources development program for the railway workforce, partnering with organizations that have such initiatives in the preparation of the programs. At the same time, they are to outline guidelines for safety in train operations and issue technical standards to ensure the competency of the personnel.

The agency is also tasked to prescribe rules and regulations for the issuance of certificates as well as accreditation of training facilities and independent training centers. It will collect reasonable fees for such certificates and accreditations, as well as the training and services they will provide.

PRI is also involved in the enforcement of laws, rules, and regulations that are relevant to empowering the workforce in the railway industry.

As GMA Network reported, the agency will have departments focused on training, certification and accreditation, and research and development.

As for the budget, the executive order says that the PRI will source it from DOTr. The institute can accept donations, grants, and assistance from private and public sources as well. In the case of funds coming from foreign organizations, however, it shall be subject to clearance and approval by the President or an authorized representative.

Led by an Executive Director, PRI’s head will have a rank of Undersecretary and be appointed by the President. The director must have at least a master’s degree and experience in the field of planning and executing transportation capacity development programs.

Rationale Behind PRI

According to the executive order, the creation of PRI is prompted by the urgent need to improve the “human resource capacities” of individuals working at public railways and make them more competent on the job. The government aims to raise up personnel who are compliant to standards of practice, and rules and regulations for safety, operation, and maintenance of railways.

It was also mentioned in the EO that PRI is aligned with the administration’s bigger, long-term program called AmBisyon Natin 2040, in which the railway sector was recognized as a priority and that investments are to be supported by capital development. According to ADB, the executive order for the long-term plan was signed on October 11, 2016, with the grand vision of the country being a flourishing middle-class society, where poverty is eradicated.

Commitment to Improve Transportation Systems

The government has often expressed its dedication to making transportation systems better in the country. In fact, one of the legacies the present administration wants to establish is the ushering of the ‘Golden Age of Infrastructure’ through the aspirational Build, Build, Build program.

Railway systems are, of course, part of the big-ticket infrastructure projects in the initiative. According to a report from ABS-CBN News, among the top priorities of the Build, Build, Build are the east and west extension of LRT 2, rehabilitation of MRT 3, construction of MRT 4, Metro Manila Subway, North–South Commuter Railway, PNR South Long Haul, Subic-Clark Railway, and Mindanao Railway.

An article from Manila Bulletin outlines updates of the infrastructure projects.  The LRT-2 East Extension project is set to be finished by 2020. MRT 3’s rehabilitation, on the other hand, is ongoing, with the supervision of Sumitomo-Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan. 

As for the first subway in the country, construction, specifically site preparation, is expected to proceed this month. In the North-South Commuter Railway project, PNR Clark Phase 1 construction is already in full swing, while PNR Clark 2 and PNR Calamba are still in the pipeline. Mindanao Railway is in the stage of procurement.

Meanwhile, the Subic-Clark railway is set to start construction in 2020. PNR South Long Haul, on the other hand, will be operational by 2022, according to the Philippine News Agency.

Recently, the DOTr presented that almost 99 percent of the 2020 budget will be allocated for the creation and improvement of railways, as shown in a Business World article. It’s expected that these development projects will spur businesses in the areas, most especially real estate investments. 

Sources: Rappler, GMA Network, ADB, ABS-CBN News, Manila Bulletin, Philippine News Agency, Business World

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