Senator Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday pushed for the integration of commercial spaces with train stations to make trains economically feasible in the country.
Citing a lack of a railway system that is economically advantageous, the senator made the proposal during the plenary debate of the 2024 budget of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) on November 13, 2023.
“We haven’t found a good economic model ng trains so much so na panay utang [tayo] sa Japan at China (to build our train systems),” he told DOTr officials present on Monday night.
“Kasi kung maganda ang model ng trains natin at economically feasible business-wise, dapat our biggest businessmen ay nag-uunahan na magpropose ng mga train,” he said.
“I’d like the DOTr to take this as a mission to find a way to make trains economically feasible whether in advertising revenue or real estate component,” he added.
Cayetano said a big factor that makes the train systems in Hong Kong and Japan is the ownership of real estate by the train management.
“One of those that are making money is MTR (Mass Transit Railway) in Hong Kong because they own the real estate. The other one that is break-even or earning is the Japanese. When you go to Japan, y’ung pinaka-ordinaryong overhead na train ay may kainan sa ilalim o may bentahan ng mga old records, et cetera. Then y’ung magandang Central Station is a real mall,” he said.
Cayetano said this is not the case in the Philippines, where mall owners have to “lobby to have a train connection” rather than it being a “part of the plan… to bid it out to one of them or for the train corporation to own it.”
The senator asked the DOTr officials if they could make this possible in the Philippines especially since it would mean government can lower the subsidy given to train passengers.
In response, Senator Grace Poe, who is the sponsor of the DOTr budget in the Senate, relayed to the chamber that DOTr is looking into the matter as 11 stations are currently identified to have a mixed-use development and would be accessible to the train passengers.
In response, Cayetano expressed confidence in the DOTr on the matter.
“I appreciate the work that you are doing. Let us just do whatever we can do with the present contracts para lang lumiit ang subsidy. And for future plans for example light railway, I’d like to see DOTr be creative and think like a business person,” he said.