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Modern Bicol Express, a development backbone

BY: Johnny Dayang

THE projected resumption in 2022 of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) Bicol Express train link between Manila and Matnog, Sorsogon is expected to revive the romantic countryside travel along its 653-kilometer stretch.

Senior Bicolanos and Southern Tagalog peers recall how romantic were their old Bicol Express travels during their student days even if it took them 12 hours to negotiate this distance. The beauty of the landscape along the route more than compensated their stress.

The Bicol Regional Development Council chaired by then three-term Albay governor, now Rep. Joey Salceda crafted and recommended the PNR South Line revival. NEDA eventually approved the projects which now forms part of the Duterte Administration’s massive “Build Build Build” infrastructure program. It now has an aggregate budget of P299.4 billion. It will further get China’s fund assistance under an accord to be signed during the ASEAN Summit the Philippines hosts in November this year.

Aside from serving as a “backbone of economic development” designed to improve the connectivity of major airports, seaports and radiation urban centers in Southern Tagalog and the Bicol Region, the modernized Bicol Express will also help enhance convenient travel to the Visayas through the ro-ro ports in Sorsogon and even help decongest Metro Manila’s traffic chaos.

When operationalized in 2022, Salceda said the project will vastly improve connectivity and efficiency among Southern Luzon’s regional growth hubs and enhance productivity in the industry, services and agriculture sectors. It will further boost Bicol’s tourism by 30 percent which forms part of the predicted 24% economic returns it will bring to the countryside.

ZERO EJK. Journalists, many of whom have been decimated by extra-judicial killings (EJK), unanimously agree the administration’s Zero EJK claim is another cruel joke.

The claim is based on former President Noynoy Aquino’s vintage AO 35 which defines EJK as a case where state agents kill a victim “who is a member of, or affiliated with an organization, to include political, environmental, agrarian, labor or similar causes, or an advocate of such causes, or a media practitioner or person(s) apparently mistaken or identified to be so.”

For certain, Kian delos Santos and many others will never qualify as EJK victims under such maliciously contrived definition. Common sense tells us, however, that outside legitimate confrontations, any killing by state agents, without a court order, is EJK.