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What was just once a blueprint, the rail line that will soon connect Manila and Bulacan is now fast becoming a reality with the continuing construction of the PNR Clark Phase 1, Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Art Tugade said Monday, June 14, 2021.
 
Tugade led the inspection of the Balagtas Station and Calumpit construction yard site of the PNR Clark Phase 1, a project that saw many years of failed attempts to get off the drawing board. The transport secretary was accompanied by other transport officials and Bulacan local government executives.
 
To date, the PNR Clark Phase 1 (Tutuban-Malolos), the first segment of the massive North-South Commuter Railway Project, has an overall progress rate of 46.68% and is eyed for completion by the second quarter of 2024.
 
Sec. Tugade said the Duterte administration upon taking office, immediately started work to realize the vision of the Build, Build, Build infrastructure program and make the DOTR-PNR rail project a reality.
 
“Noong pumasok ang administrasyong Duterte, ang sabi ng administrasyon, gagawa at gagawa kami ng paraan upang ‘yung panaginip, ‘yung pangarap, ‘yung mga planong ginawa tungkol sa riles ng tren dito sa Bulacan ay maging realidad,” Sec. Tugade said.
 
Tugade likewise announced that the train sets to be used for the project will be delivered in December. Meanwhile, the training center for the rail line will be finished before the year ends.
 
Funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the PNR Clark Phase 1 is a 38-kilometer railway that cuts through the cities of Manila, Caloocan, Valenzuela, and the municipalities of Meycuayan, Marilao, Bocaue, Balagtas, Guiguinto, and Malolos City in Bulacan. Once completed, the project will serve 300,000 passengers daily and is expected to slash travel time from Tutuban, Manila to Malolos, Bulacan from one hour and 30 minutes to just 35 minutes.
 
To prove that the PNR Clark Phase 1 project is on track and on schedule, Tugade said he personally visited the Balagtas Station and Calumpit construction yard, barely a month after conducting a series of inspections at the project's Meycauayan and Valenzuela segments.
 
REPRIEVE FOR OFWs
 
During his inspection, Sec. Tugade was welcomed by 70 former overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who are now employed at the Calumpit construction yard as part of DOTr’s commitment to provide Filipinos displaced by the pandemic with jobs.
 
With movement restrictions imposed by states due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many OFWs lost their jobs and were forced to return home.
 
On the order of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, the DOTr reached out to former OFWs with offers of employment in the country under the Build, Build, Build Program of the Duterte Administration.
 
During the inspection, three (3) former OFWs expressed their gratitude to President Duterte and Sec. Tugade for the opportunity to work under the PNR Clark Phase 1 project.
 
“Maraming salamat po sa pagbibigay ng aming kabuhayan at maging parte ng world-class construction industry. Sana tuluy-tuloy ang proyekto ng ating Secretary Tugade,” said Aristotle Angeles, a former OFW based in the UAE and is now a deputy manager of the Sta Clara International Corporation, a sub contractor for the PNR Clark Phase 1 Project.
 
Tugade likewise stated that more employment opportunities prioritizing former OFWs, displaced public utility drivers, and conductors will be opened under DOTr projects.
 
“Pinipilit at sinisikap ng Kagawaran ng Transportasyon na magkaroon ng proyekto at gawain ang ating mga OFWs. Ang inisyatibong ito ay alinsunod ‘ho sa aking direktiba na bigyang prayoridad ang ating mga mahal na OFWs, kasama ng ating mga kababayang tsuper at konduktor pagdating sa pagkuha ng mga empleyado para sa mga proyekto ng DOTr. Layunin nito na sila ay matulungan sa pagtustos sa pang araw-araw nilang pangangailangan, maging ng kanilang pamilya, kung saan hindi na nila kinakailangang lumayo pa o magtungo sa ibang bansa,” Tugade said before 70 former OFWs now working at the Calumpit construction yard.
 
“Bibigyan natin sila ng hanapbuhay, hindi lamang sa riles, kundi pati na rin sa Aviation, Maritime at Road sectors. Marami tayong proyekto sa Pilipinas, para sa Pilipino,” he added.
 
Tugade also recalled his Meycauayan and Valenzuela visits, where he was welcomed by at least 188 former OFWs working at the site.
 
At least 7,500 workers were employed during the construction of the project, while 2,500 additional jobs will be made available once the project becomes operational.
 
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