Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista and Philippine National Railways President Michael Macapagal. FILE PHOTO / courtesy of DOTR PNR

MANILA, Philippines — There may soon be no houses left along the “riles” (tracks), at least for the routes along the government’s North-South Suburban Railway (NSCR) project.

At a press conference in Manila on Wednesday, Philippine National Railways (PNR) chairman Michael Macapagal said the relocation of informal settlers who have built their homes along the NSCR route in Metro Manila will begin in April this year.

READ: PNR: North-South suburban railway from Laguna to Pampanga completed in 2028

“In Metro Manila, we are starting (…) relocation and fencing later this month. So in doing so, we will find priority issues and then address them on a case-by-case basis,” Macapagal said in a mix of Filipino and English.

“(It should be) in April this year, from now on, resettlement is starting,” he added, saying that informal settlers have already been informed that they will be relocated for “quite a while”.

The NSCR is a P873.6-billion government railway project that would cover about 147 kilometers from Clark in Pampanga to Calamba in Laguna.

The PNR president previously said that this new railway project, scheduled for completion in five years, will have the capacity to serve around 800,000 passengers per day upon completion.

“The DOTr’s (P873) billion budget [Department of Transportation] and the North-South Suburban Railway PNR includes the relocation allowance for our compatriots. We are in contact with the Department of Human Settlement and Urban Development and the National Housing Authority to transfer our affected compatriots to resettlement areas”, explained Macapagal.

Regarding the location of the resettlement areas, he noted that he received a directive from Malacañang and Transport Secretary Jaime Bautista to relocate the affected people to the same provinces or municipalities where they initially resided.

“The order of the President and the Secretary is that if they [informal settlers] were removed from Laguna, they must also be relocated to Laguna. If they were removed from Manila, they should also be relocated to Manila,” the PNR president said.

He, however, noted that this relocation initiative presents challenges, especially in terms of right-of-way issues.

READ: PNR to suspend Metro Manila operations for 5 years starting March 28

“Right of way issues, I admit, (are) very challenging. However, I can safely say that from Clark to Valenzuela the work is between 80% and 85% complete. This was handled well and I admire the political will that was put into the process of taking care of this”, said the government official.

A PNR official previously told that NSCR's Clark route to West Valenzuela will begin partial operations in late 2027.

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The PNR halted its operations for five years starting March 28 to make way for construction of the rail project.