False: World’s most expensive railway system constructed under PNoy

June 28, 2022 - 6:46 PM
11015
A rendering of the Malolos–Clark Railway Project. Photo courtesy of JICA. A rendering of the Malolos–Clark Railway Project. (Photo courtesy of JICA via ADB)

Claim: A pro-Marcos Tiktok account posted a video about the North Luzon Rail Project, with the text: “Pnoy’s Term: pinaka mahal na rail way system sa buong mundo. Utang na binabayaran ngunit wala tayong napapala.”

Tiktok user @02anonymous88 which has 617 followers and more than 11,400 likes posted a spliced clip from the ABS-CBN investigative documentary show “Failon Ngayon.” He was referring to late President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s term.

Rating: The TikTok video’s claims are false.

Facts

The video was referring to the North Luzon Rail Project (NorthRail), one of the flagship plans of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2002.

It falsely claims that NorthRail, the country’s most expensive railway transportation project to date, was constructed under the Aquino administration. The project along with the massive cost was approved under the Arroyo administration.

The Aquino administration was afterward obligated to review the project and pay the remaining loan.

The 80-kilometer railroad project originally costs $421 million, which was supposed to be built and financed by a Chinese-owned company, China National Machinery and Equipment Corp Group (CNMEG). In 2009, during Arroyo’s term, the CNMEG raised the price to $593 million, with the Philippine government agreeing to shoulder the difference.

Even before the construction of the project started, the Senate had already raised concerns about alleged corruption, citing illegalities in the bidding process. Despite the controversies, construction began in 2007.

RELATED: Ex-Northrail chief wanted contract terminated | Philstar.com

This promising project, however, was formally abolished during Aquino’s term in 2011 due to recurring legal issues.

Later on, former Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas expressed the government’s interest in “reconfiguring” the project with China. However, it was soon replaced by the North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR) project. Still, the Philippine government was obligated to pay the loans for the NorthRail.

In 2017, the Department of Transportation reached a settlement agreement with Sinomach (formerly CNMEG) for the NorthRail dispute, saving the country from P5B in potential payments.

RELATED: Northrail settlement spares PH from payment of P5-B claims to Chinese firm: DOTr 

Just a few months before the end of Aquino’s term, the Philippines signed a loan with Japan amounting to $1.99B for the NSCR project funding in 2015.

The succeeding administration under President Rodrigo Duterte included the project in his Build Build Build Program.

Why it matters

The video with false claims reached over 61,700 views, 1,817 likes, 248 comments and 81 shares on Tiktok.

It was uploaded last June 18, 2022, just a few days before former president Aquino’s first death anniversary.

This story is part of the Philippine Fact-check Incubator, an Internews initiative to build the fact-checking capacity of news organizations in the Philippines and encourage participation in global fact-checking efforts.

Interaksyon is part of #FactsFirstPH, a multi-sectoral initiative promoting truth in public space and demanding accountability for falsehoods. For those interested to join the initiative, email [email protected]

Interaksyon is also a founding partner of Tsek.ph, a collaborative fact-checking project for the 2022 Philippine elections. It is an initiative of academe, civil society groups and media to counter disinformation and provide the public with verified information.