Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

Eighty-percent of trips in Metro Manila are provided by the public transport system. To avoid vehicle overcrowding in the streets, the government has expanded the rail network in the metropolis. There are four existing railway lines:

– Baclaran-Monumento LRT-1 which became operational in 1984.
– North Avenue-Taft MRT-3 which started operation in 2000.
– Recto-Santolan LRT-2 which opened in 2004.
– Tutuban-Alabang line of the Philippine National Railways which resumed operations in 2009.

Ongoing and proposed rail projects

1. LRT Line 1 North Extension – connecting Monumento of LRT-1 to North Avenue of MRT-3. This is the “closing the loop” project. There will be three new stations: Balintawak, Roosevelt, and Common Station (most probably in front of SM North EDSA).

2. Northrail (Caloocan to Clark). Phase 1 of the project includes the construction of railway from Caloocan to Clark. Phase 4 features an extension of the line to Poro Point in San Fernando, La Union. There are 5 major stations for Phase 1: Caloocan, Marilao, Malolos, San Fernando, Clark. The government plans to adopt Diesel-Electric Multiple Units with a capacity of 1,800 passengers per train set. Hindi ba obsolete at madumi ang teknolohiyang ito? At mabagal pa ang mga tren.

The work has been suspended since February 2008. May kinalaman kaya ang away ni PGMA at JDV?

3. Northrail-Southrail linkage (Caloocan to Alabang).

4. LRT Line 1 South Extension (Baclaran-Bacoor). The project will benefit passengers who live in the cities of Paranaque and Las Pinas and the municipality of Bacoor, Cavite. Eight new stations will be built.

5. LRT Line 2 East Extension (Marikina-Antipolo). The expansion will start from Santolan Station in Marikina City to Masinag Junction in Antipolo, Rizal. The project will serve the communities of Marikina, Cainta and Antipolo. Government statistics reveal that Antipolo City is the fastest growing city in the country.

6. Northrail-Southrail linkage (Alabang to Calamba).

7. Southrail (Calamba-Sorsogon). Minimum rehabilitation project of the Bicol line of the PNR.

8. MRT-7 (North Avenue to San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan). The railway line will be built above Commonwealth Avenue and then under the Elliptical Road in Quezon Memorial Circle. There will be 14 stations from EDSA to San Jose Del Monte.


a. Magkano ba ang lagay diyan? Magkano ang overprice? Saan ang bukol?

b. This interesting sentence from a Congress Committee Report: “The LRTA was very confident that it will be able to “close the loop” (LRT-1 and MRT-3) before President Arroyo’s term ends.” Ito ba ang pahabol na pamana ni Arroyo bago siya bumaba sa puwesto? Parang Ortigas flyover ni Cory at Skyway ni Ramos?

c. Why should the common station be directly connected to supermalls? Another manifestation of the power of big business to influence government infrastructure projects. The North EDSA central station will be built in front of a Bus Terminal giving direct access to SM City Sky Garden. The SM Group of Companies is willing to donate PhP200 million for the depot. Baka mas mababa ang offer ng mga Ayala.

d. Separate government entities are supervising the railway projects. There should be a single authority to coordinate the projects and plans of the government. Case in point: The MMDA is complaining that the viaduct structure of the extension line from North Avenue to Monumento is too low to accommodate future constructions of pedestrian footbridges. Hindi pa nga natatapos, nag-aaway na.

e. Ramos “removed” the face of poverty in the country by closing the world-famous Smokey Mountain in Tondo. Arroyo copied this tactic by removing the poor who live near railway tracks. Mukhang wala nang Home along da Riles ngayon. More than 25,000 households living near the Caloocan-Alabang tracks were moved to relocation sites. Almost 7,000 families near the Alabang-Calamba railway were relocated too. Then and now, solving poverty remains the same: transport the poor to faraway places where their filthy, ugly presence cannot be seen by the civilized classes.

f. It took 16 years before a new railway was developed between 1984-2000. Failure of Aquino leadership?

g. Arroyo’s railway projects will further expand Mega Manila. The urban will invade more rural spaces. Metro Luzon is slowly emerging. The western corridor of Luzon is likely to produce the major urban centers of the country. How about the agricultural communities of the eastern part of Luzon? (Cagayan Valley). How do we link them to the urban?

It is no longer Imperial Manila; it is now Imperial Mega Manila. Soon, it will be Imperial Metro Luzon. To be exact, Imperial Western Luzon.

h. The railway lines will connect former military bases which are now business and trading centers: Fort Bonifacio, Clark, Subic, Poro Point. The railways will promote business activities especially the export-import industry in the former military bases. Foreign investors will earn superprofits from the rail projects which may explain their willingness to finance some of the components of the proposed mass transit programs.

i. To decongest the National Capital Region, constructing more railways is not enough. Improving the water-based transport system is also essential. Develop fast ferries. Promote sea travel. Maximize the Laguna Lake to connect Manila and the provinces of Laguna, Rizal, and Quezon. Maximize Manila Bay to link Central Luzon, Manila, and Southern Tagalog.

Developing water transport infrastructures is easy and less costly. It will also not affect the country’s food security because it will not invade agricultural spaces in the provinces. But local bureaucrats are more enthusiastic with railway projects maybe because the kickbacks from these investments are bigger.

j. Are there also exisiting railway projects in other regions of the country? What is the status of the Mindanao Railway Project?

k. Railway workers should be allowed to join and form unions. Rallyists from the provinces can ride the trains to participate in mass actions in downtown Manila. Urban-based activists can use the trains to reach the countryside more quickly.

l. The railway projects can be seen too as part of the state offensive to tame the wild and rebellious rural spaces. By conceptualizing the northrail-southrail lines, the state taunts the rural-based left which claims to exert political control in remote towns and communities in the provinces. What will be the response of red cadres from the countryside?

How do we invade the city from the countryside if the city is now in the countryside? Or to be more precise, if some elements of the city are invading the spaces of the countryside, what should be the left’s revolutionary response?

m. The state wants to prove its hegemony over public spaces in Metro Manila by evicting the urban poor dwellers along railway tracks. The state, a la Mussolini, can prove that order prevails in society by making the trains run on time. Through the railways, the ruling class of the state in power can assert that it is the only political entity that can command and facilitate the flow of goods and people in Mega Manila. That it is the political force that can effectively link various urban centers like Metro Manila, Metro Laguna, Metro Cavite, Metro Bulacan. That it is the overlord of Metro Luzon.

The state under Arroyo has developed its political infrastructure through the railways and RoRo. The left, the opposition, and other dissenting forces should develop a proper radical response to the seemingly spatial hegemony of the state.

The state seems to be winning because it has the initiative to dominate and lead spaces and places in Luzon Island. But oppositional forces can steal the momentum of the state and regain initiative in the war of position.

n. The trains can serve the agenda of victorious political forces in the future. During the 1896 revolution, the Manila-Dagupan railway was used by revolutionaries to liberate towns and provinces. Will today’s revolutionaries use the northrail-southrail to liberate the mega city?

Related articles:

Ebolusyon ng Metro Manila
MMDA: Space and resistance
National roads
War and transportation
Imperial Manila

4 Responses to “Railway politics”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by . said: […]

    Tweets that mention Mong Palatino : Railway politics --

  2. I have never in my borm days found such cynical question put up for comment.
    This a major project thats a revolution in itself.I for one am in full favour of the projects.
    Where I live and work can take 2-3 hours traffic and weather permitting.That same journey will take half the time for me, allowing me to sleep in each morning.
    Also the cost would work out on a weekly or monthly basis far cheaper.
    Is there anyone else who loves the idea of faster commuting.


  3. […] Railway politics Loob-labas Bundok, dagat, pulitika 20th century: Imperialism and Revolution […]

    East-West « Mong Palatino

  4. […] Railway politics War and transportation Labanan sa tubigan East-West Balik probinsiya […]

    Mong Palatino » Blog Archive » Abandoned Railways

Leave a Reply