House oks creation of Philippine National Railway Authority

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The Lower House committees on government enterprises, legislative franchise, and transportation approved in a joint hearing a bill seeking to restructure the Philippine National Railways (PNR) system.

The unnumbered substitute bill, which was approved on March 7, provides for the creation of the Philippine National Railway Authority (PNRA) that shall regulate all aspects of operations of railway corporations, while its board of directors shall set the necessary routes, fares, and standards on safety and security.

It further mandates the establishment of three separate corporations—the Luzon Railway Corporation, Visayas Railway Corporation (VRC), and Mindanao Railway Corporation (MRC)—to operate railways in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The corporations shall exist for a term of 50 years, which is renewable for another 50.

The authorized capital stock of each corporation shall be P30 billion, of which 20% or P6 billion, shall be initially paid up and the balance shall be paid from a continuing annual appropriation of not less than P2 billion.

Moreover, railway operators are required to secure a franchise from Congress. Operators with an existing franchise or concession agreement with any government agency are granted three years to secure a legislative franchise.

The measure also contains penal provisions for acts harmful to the sustainability and safety of trains, tracks, equipment, and other assets, including the safety and security of the riding public.

During the deliberations, the committees accepted an amendment to Section 43. The amendment seeks to prohibit the issuance of restraining orders and preliminary injunctions.

The section now reads: “No court in the Philippines shall have the jurisdiction to issue any restraining order, preliminary injunction, or preliminary mandatory injunction in any case, dispute, or controversy involving any contract or project being implemented by the Authority, to prohibit any person or persons, or entity or government official from proceeding with or continuing on the execution or implementation of such contract or project, or pursuing any lawful activity necessary for the execution, implementation or operation of such railway project or system.”

In addition, the committee members agreed that professional experience specific to public and railway transportation shall be required of the PNRA administrator. This is in addition to qualifications already required in the bill, such as being 35 years of age, of good moral character, and of recognized executive ability and competence in transportation, business administration, management, finance, or law.

Specific professional experience shall also be required from the deputy administrators and operations manager.

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