By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

(PNA file photo)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has created an inter-agency committee tasked to oversee the right-of-way (ROW) activities for the country’s railway projects to expedite the process of land acquisition needed for their implementation.

Under Administrative Order (AO) 19 inked by Marcos on March 25, the secretary of the Department of Transportation will serve as the chairperson of the inter-agency committee, with the secretary of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development serving as co-chair.

Members of the committee include the Interior, Social Welfare, Environment, Finance, Budget, and Justice departments, as well as the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).

The Philippine National Railway (PNR), serving as the Secretariat of the Committee, is directed to provide administrative and technical support to the body.

“The Inter-Agency Committee for ROW Activities for National Railway Projects (Committee) is hereby created to study and devise an efficient and collaborative mechanism to streamline the process of land acquisition necessary for the implementation of all railway projects,” AO 19 read.

The committee is mandated to coordinate the implementation of railway policies and projects, as well as craft and approve project-specific policies and programs.

It is also directed to identify the appropriate services or programs concerning land acquisition and other ROW activities, such as livelihood, income restoration, and resettlement.

AO 19 likewise designates the committee to identify effective existing policies, agreements, contracts, and other similar arrangements between and among government agencies.

The committee also has the authority to consolidate and mobilize agency resources to streamline budgeting; deliberate and resolve issues or grievances; and create technical working groups to implement AO 19.

Republic Act (RA) 10752 or the Right-of-Way Act authorizes the government to acquire real property needed as ROW site or location for any national government infrastructure project through donation, negotiated sale, expropriation, or any other mode of acquisition.

Under the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028 and 8-Point Socioeconomic Agenda, the Marcos administration aims to improve the Philippine transportation sector by providing sustainable and affordable transportation options that will link communities to economic, social and cultural centers.

The Metro Manila Subway Project, North-South Commuter Railway System, Mindanao Railway Project, and PNR South Long Haul are among the current administration’s priority infrastructure projects in the transportation sector to boost mobility, enhance connectivity and promote growth centers outside the urban-industrial region.

Malacañang has yet to release a copy of AO 19.

Meanwhile, Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. lauded President Marcos for being “both a visionary and a realist” in establishing the inter-agency committee.

“Sinisiguro niya na ang mga pangarap makamit ng ating bansa ay naka-angkla sa konkretong plano at aksyon (He sees to it that the country’s aspirations are anchored on concrete plans and actions),” Revilla said in a statement.

“With this new committee to focus on right-of-way, we see more railway projects coming into reality,” he added. (With a report from Wilnard Bacelonia/PNA)