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CHED urged to open courses for rail transit professionals

PASAY CITY, Philippines – Current LRT 1 trains and the controversial Dalian trains intended for MRT 3 line are seen at the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) depot in Pasay City, 5 Feb 2017. Senator Win Gatchalian has called on the government to open specialized courses designed to meet the growing demands for a competent workforce to manage the country’s rail transit systems. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

Noting the need to produce local railway engineers, planners, and experts, Senator Win Gatchalian on Monday urged the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to partner with the Department of Transportation (DOTr) in institutionalizing courses aimed at creating a competent workforce to manage the country’s mass rail transit systems.

“One of the problems confronting our rail sector over the years is the lack of professionals with the appropriate competencies to respond to the growing demands of the industry. With the government targeting to build 1,900-km of additional rail networks, we should open opportunities for the youth to embark on careers in rail transport and logistics,” he said.

The expanded coverage of railway system is part of the big ticket projects included in the Duterte Administration’s “Build Build Build” (BBB) program. At present, the government runs a total 77-km rail lines distributed across four operating platforms: LRT-1, LRT-2, MRT-3, and the PNR.

Gatchalian, who serves as Vice-Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts, and Culture, added that CHED should likewise strengthen its linkages with countries experienced in advanced rail transportation technologies in order to foster knowledge transfers that will enhance Philippine research, development, and planning in the said field.

“This is one academic discipline that has not been fully tapped, unlike in other well-advanced countries which are investing heavily in improving their railways through meticulous research and strategic planning,” he said.

Gatchalian said that by creating a local pool of specialists, the government will no longer need to rely on foreign experts, and can start building local capabilities to produce and maintain trains. He also said that the government “must learn from its past mistakes, have the discipline and foresight, and become more proactive” – referring to the past controversies and issues surrounding the administration of some of the existing rail lines.

“There is so much potential in our rail transport sector, if only we focus on its development. The improved mobility and interconnectivity would be a pivotal driver of economic growth,” the senator added.