TENDERS are to be called by the end of July for reconstruction of the Phividec rail network on the Philippine island of Panay.

The Chairman of Philippine Investment & Development Corp Ofelia Bulalong announced on May 11 that work would start this year for completion in 2007, with the aim of reinstating passenger services between Iloilo City and Roxas by 2008. A fleet of eight four-car trainsets is envisaged, covering the 117 km in 1h 10min and carrying 25 million passengers a year.

Total cost is put at US$658m, including construction of a 4 km branch to serve Iloilo airport. However, Phividec is looking to cut this by around a third, and has appointed a consortium of Siemens, Systra and Voestalpine to look at potential savings.

Meanwhile, Philippine National Railways reinstated passenger services on its Main Line South between Manila and Legaspi on May 2, having suspended operations last November after a train fell into a ravine killing seven and injuring 177 of the 400 passengers.

General Manager Jose Sarasola is seeking international support for a US$1bn refurbishment of the 480 km line. However, PNR failed to secure a share of a US$1·6bn Chinese loan package signed at the end of April which provided US$500m for the Manila - Clark North Rail project.

Sarasola now expects to split the MLS refurbishment programme into smaller packages, starting with the 32 km Caloocan - Alabang section, which is being partially funded with a US$150m loan from South Korea to support the purchase of 21 new diesel trainsets. Another US$200m will be needed to rehabilitate the Calamba - Lucena section, which he believes could be raised through some form of BOT deal.