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Northrail arbitration ends in 30 days

HONG KONG – Notwithstanding a decision to finish the Northern Railways project that was derailed due to controversies, the Duterte administration assured nobody among parties allegedly involved in the overpricing of the $2-billion project will “go scot free.”

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade gave the assurance during a press conference here as he revealed that the settlement of the arbitration proceedings between China and Philippines is expected to be completed in 30 days.

Addressing allegations that the project cost was bloated from $503 million to $2 billion when it was launched by the Arroyo administration in 2004, Tugade said that while the Duterte government is determined to finish the 80-kilometer railways project in Luzon, it will go after those involved in the overpricing if this is confirmed.

Then President Aquino scrapped the project in 2012 following claims that the price has been bloated by the previous administration.

The Aquino decision pushed the China National Machinery and Equipment Corp., now China Natinal Machinery Industry Corp., to submit the issue to an international arbitration at the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Tugade said the settlement of the arbitration issue is expected within the month, throwing away hints that final decision on the issue may be completed by Philippines and China at the Belt and Road Forum to be hosted by the latter in Beijing this weekend. (Ben R. Rosario)