2023 NEP grants railways biggest-ever budget at P114 billion

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s proposed 2023 National Expenditure Program (NEP) of P5.268 trillion packs the largest ever railway budget of any administration — P113.99 billion or almost five times higher than that of the 2022 outlay of P23.12 billion.

The 2023 NEP was submitted to the House of Representatives last week.

“President Marcos has virtually declared that the era of big rail is back and that he has fired the opening shot to roll out ‘Build Better More’,” Albay Second District Rep. Joey Salceda, also the Ways and Means committee chair, said in a statement on Sunday.

Salceda is the principal author of the House Resolution “Build Better More” that formally institutionalized Marcos’ infrastructure spending targets.

He said the President is moving towards national backbone projects, in reference to former president Rodrigo Duterte’s main infrastructure legacy, with over 20,000 projects in the countryside.

He noted that while Duterte’s strategy was to bring the resources of the national government down to the countryside, Marcos is going to maximize the benefits of that strategy by bringing thousands of smaller infrastructure projects together through big connecting projects, foremost of which are the railways.

Salceda added that the bulk of the P380-billion unprogrammed appropriations for foreign-assisted projects will come from loan proceeds for railway projects, while some P108 billion in local counterpart for rail projects have already been anticipated in the budget.

He noted that the government seems bullish about receiving loan proceeds from the Bicol railway project, which is being renegotiated with China.

“President Marcos proposes a large window of unprogrammed appropriations from loan proceeds so that, once the Bicol Railway loans actually materialize, we can immediately get the ball rolling with construction,” he added.

Salceda thanked Department of Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista for keeping Bicol rail in the agenda and appealed to Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno to “move forward” with the rail loans.

The lawmaker is working with the DOTr for the establishment of the Legazpi-Daraga Tramway, which will make use of the defunct PNR lines passing through the Municipality of Daraga and the City of Legazpi, to create a metro-wide tramway system.

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