A PROMINENT businessman in Angeles City has lambasted the Abacan River and Angeles Watershed Advocacy Council Inc. (Araw-ACI) after the group expressed support to the Subic Clark Railway Project (SCRP).
Ruperto Cruz, owner of the Royal Garden Golf and Country Club and Grand Palazzo Royale event center, said the environment group does not know the real issues and concerns of the residents and businessmen against the SCRP.
Cruz, who is also the head of the Pinoy Gumising Ka Movement (PGKM), opposed the railway project after the government allegedly deviated from the SCRP's original design previously aligned along the Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX).
The businessman claimed that numerous residential, commercial, and industrial and tourism-related properties, including his business estate, will be affected if the project pushes through on its new alignment.
"We already forged agreement with our investors and the Department of Transportation and other government agencies are implementing the project without public consultation," Cruz said.
According to the PGKM head, Araw-ACI failed to consult the real stakeholders that will be affected by the SCRP.
Cruz dared the environment group to be consistent in their advocacy.
"They should have opposed and stopped the massive exploitation of watershed and forest areas in Clark and its subzones by locators and investors," he said.
"Where are the trees you promised to plant and grow along the Abacan river and the Sapangbato watershed several years ago?" he asked the group.
The SCRP should have been diverted to Northern Luzon so that vegetables and fruits from Baguio City and Benguet province can be transported easily to Metro Manila and Central Luzon, according to Cruz.
Araw-ACI earlier cited importance of Subic-Clark freight railway to the development of Central Luzon through expanded services for transportation.
In a resolution signed by the Araw-ACI board, the group recognized the importance of the project as a component of the Luzon Railway System.
The SCRP is a 71-kilometer freight railway connecting the Subic Bay Freeport Zone (SBFZ) and Clark Freeport providing a link between the Port of Subic Bay and Clark International Airport (CRK).
“Whereas, the SCRP is designed to support the current industrial activities and potential demand for freight and future passenger services along the Subic-Clark Corridor. The SCRP will work as an alternative transportation for businesses and industries needing freight services considering that the movement of logistics from Clark Freeport Zone to Subic or Manila and vice versa is currently being done via trucking shipments through the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) and North Luzon Expressway (NLEx),” the Araw-ACI board added in its board resolution 1, series of 2021.
Renato “Abong” Tayag Jr., president of Araw-ACI, said a railway system for freight services has been long overdue for Central Luzon.
“The business sector and the investors eyeing urban centers in Luzon have been waiting for transportation infrastructure that will support the economic activities here,” Tayag said.
Tayag added that Araw-ACI also recognizes the initiatives of the National Government to decongest traffic in Metro Manila, especially port traffic at Manila Port.
“We need alternative transportation systems that would complement the growing demand for logistics services. The business sector groups in Pampanga and Angeles City understand this need. And in our future plans for sustainable development, we also take into consideration the balance between the needed infrastructure and the sustainability of our resources for energy, food, and most importantly, water," he said.
“Thus, we want to emphasize that as we support the SCRP, we are also willing to monitor its construction and development. We are aware that the national government proponents secured an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) and there is an environmental management plan that shall provide guidelines in implementing mitigation measures to lessen the impact of the project to the environment,” Tayag said.
Araw-ACI is a non-stock, non-profit corporation registered at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
The group is known for its advocacy for the rehabilitation of the 560-hectare Angeles Watershed in Sapangbato, Angeles.
The advocacy group is an umbrella of private sector groups and businesses supporting the Angeles Watershed Rehabilitation Program.