by Jyra Canlas and Kassel Clarisse Kraft
Around 1,889 settlers from the 7km stretch affected by the Philippine National Railway (PNR) Tutuban–Los Baños South Commuter Line attended the first meeting for the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) held last January 19, 2018 at the Old Municipal Hall Covered Court in Brgy. Baybayin in Los Baños, Laguna.
According to Jose Lapis, a representative of the KOalisyon ng mga SAmahan sa RIles-KAtagalugan (KOSARIKA) from Brgy. Baybayin, the meeting held last Friday was a rundown of the plans by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) so that the affected residents living along the railway will be more knowledgeable about the project.
Representatives from the 12 concerned barangays comprised the number of participants. This included barangays Tadlac, Lalakay, Bambang, Timugan, Baybayin, Malinta, Anos, Mayondon, Batong Malake, San Antonio, Maahas, and Tuntungin-Putho. Also present were delegates from collaborating agencies DOTr, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and the Los Baños Municipal Urban Development and Housing Office (MUDHO) in cooperation with KOSARIKA .
The meeting revolved on presentations of the objectives, which were delivered by the representatives from the said agencies. Annabelle Herrera, RAP team leader from ECOSYSCORP, Inc., was the first speaker. She presented an overview of the People’s plan, also known as the People’s proposal. Defying the traditional way of resettlement, the People’s plan uses a demand-based approach wherein the affected families will be given the opportunity to decide regarding concerns about their resettlement.
She was followed by Atty. Gwen Enciso, DOTr representative, who shared the insights and plans coming from their department. Josine Divina was also in attendance to represent JICA and their study team.
Following the formal program, a letter composed of the sentiments and requests from the citizens of the concerned barangays was read by Joselito Oboza Jr., KOSARIKA representative from Brgy. San Antonio-North. Afterwards, the attendees were given a chance to participate in an open forum.
Affected people of the PNR project considered the meeting a success in communicating to them the agenda regarding concerns about the resettlement issue. Penny Lou San Valentin, a resident from Brgy. Baybayin said, “Okay naman siya, naliwanagan kami, kaming mga nakinig. Ako, naliwanagan naman ako doon sa pinaliwanag nilang proyekto nila dito sa tabing riles.”
In addition, another Brgy. Baybayin resident, Buthler Borton, approved the meeting’s topic regarding the proposed People’s plan. He said, “Maganda yung People’s plan nilang sinasabi kasi sa taong bayan na mismo nanggaling.”
During an interview with Donato Catipon, president of KOSARIKA, he said that it took them one year and six months to fully prepare for the first RAP stakeholders consultation meeting. According to him, they have been doing a house-to-house consultation per barangay to hear the sentiments of the citizens and give them an overview of the plan even before the actual meeting. Thus, when the first RAP took place, the attendees were already informed about its agenda, giving the meeting a good flow.
The discussions regarding the PNR South Commuter Line between the Municipality of Los Baños and the Provincial Urban Development and Housing Office (PUDHO) started last August 2017. Also, the presentation of the project plan to the members of the Local Government Unit (LGU) was done December last year.
Mr. Catipon mentioned that the first RAP meeting was mere project disclosure; hence, further details are yet to be discussed. To date, three upcoming meetings have been planned with tentative dates falling on the months of March and April 2018. The agenda for the next assembly will focus on the laws and legalities that will govern the project.
The settlers in affected areas will be informed of the legal matters that concern them in the next RAP meeting. Emphasis will be given on Republic Act (R.A.) 10752, known as the “The Right-of-Way Act.” This law shall ensure that the owners of the property acquired for national government infrastructure projects are promptly paid just compensation for the acquisition of the required right-of-way for the projects.
The PNR South Commuter Line would be covering a length of 72 kilometer pass from Tutuban to Los Baños. It is expected to be functional by the year 2022.
This railway project will be have 22 stations, including one located near the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). The train is expected to cut into half the travel time from Manila–Laguna.
The PNR South Rail Project is divided into two projects, the PNR South Commuter Line which is from Tutuban to Los Baños and the PNR Long haul which is from Calamba to Bicol. Financing for the South Commuter Line is JICA.
The revival of PNR in some areas that have not been functioning for years was an effort made by the current administration to improve the rail systems and ease the transportation issue in the Philippines.