Sanchez: Negrense mass transport

I HAVE many issues that I disagree with President-elect Rodrigo Duterte. Building of railway to boost mass transit in the Negros Island Region, however, is not one of them. I totally support this Duterte initiative.

Yves Akol, PDP Laban NIR secretary general, proposed a railroad system for Negros, under the Duterte administration, that is the fastest and cheapest way to travel.

It’s an idea that has hopefully arrived in the political agenda. But this railway is not even original.

Back in 2013, Negrense sugar millers see the revival of the railway line that goes around the island of Negros to cut down transport costs. This is to make Negrense sugar more competitive to offset the surge of imports from the rest of Asean.

In fact, back in 2013, the Victorias Milling Company Inc. (VMC) informed its stockholders that the company is embarking on several “strategic initiatives” and possible business opportunities ahead of the Asean Trade in Goods Agreement (Atiga) implementation.

Under the World Trade Organization, the tariff on imported sugar is 50 percent within the quota and 65 if the shipment is already outside the quota. But under the Asean Free Trade Area, the common effective preferential tariff (CEPT) on this commodity has come down to 18 percent this year, and will drop further to 10 percent next year and five percent starting last year.

Wilson Young, VMC chair, said the local sugar industry needs to revive the old Negros railway line to cut the cost of transporting sugar canes to mills. Young argued that VMC is spending P800 million, or a third of the company’s budget, just to transport the sugar canes.

If 100 kilometers of the railway going around the Negros Island could be rehabilitated, then this would cut millers’ costs by a third, according to VMC executives.

As a sugarcane industry stakeholder, Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. should endorse the building of a railway to boost mass transit in the Negros Island Region.

As the Asian Development Bank pointed out, railway projects highway and expressway projects cater to large volumes of freight and passengers over longer distances.

I have experienced the benefits of railway systems. In Hong Kong, both CEOs and the hoi polloi take the metro. This system is cheaper, faster, efficient—and inclusive. Everyone gets to their points of destination on time.

Whenever I’m in Switzerland, France, Hong Kong or New York, I take the train. Who needs a car when I can get to my appointment on time at lesser costs?

*****

(bqsanc@yahoo.com)

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