Slow In Modernization 

Text and photos by Basilio Sepe

It is slow in modernization but tens of thousands of Filipinos are still using the Philippine National Railways or the PNR everyday. Yet, it remains behind other transportation systems in the country – giving a lot of commuters a hard if not a dangerous time getting to their destinations

Around 75,000 commuters take the PNR trains everyday. It is the oldest commuter train system in Southeast Asia, tracing its history back to the Spanish colonial period. It officially began operations on November 24, 1892 as the Ferrocarril de Manila-Dagupan. It became the Philippine National Railways on June 20, 1964 by virtue of Republic Act No. 4156 but due to neglect, the PNR declined severely through the decades.

Arthur Tugade, Secretary of the Department of Transportation said in September that the system is undergoing modernization but it will take two and a half years.

The Philippine government also initiated a rehabilitation project aiming to remove informal settlers from the PNR right-of-way, revitalize commuter services in Metro Manila, and restore the Manila-Bicol route as well as lost services in Northern Luzon, according to the PNR website.

Government actively pursued the rehabilitation and revival of Philippine rail transport through various investments, despite the numerous problems involved.

Tugade said it’s not an easy task because the tracks are either being sold or stolen and there are informal settlers who do not want to leave.

Today, the government is trying to modernize the system but it is taking time. Meanwhile, the tens of thousands of commuters have to endure the daily hellish ride — from slow trains to no trains at all.

This documentary was done in collaboration with @eyesgonzales. See her story here:

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