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House approves Quezon-Bicol Expressway

September 14th, 2021

House approves Quezon-Bicol Expressway; Salceda says road will be “backbone of overland trade” in Bicol, to reduce travel time to 5-6 hours from Manila to Bicol

House Ways and Means Chair Joey Sarte Salceda (Albay, 2nd district) urged the government to start the construction of the proposed Quezon-Bicol Expressway (QUBEX) as the House plenary approved on third reading House Bill No. 9988, which would mandate the construction of the expressway. Salceda is one of the principal authors of the bill.

In earlier remarks, Salceda said that the “lack of backbone transport infrastructure has its impacts on the lives of our people, especially during this pandemic. Bicol has suffered some of the highest inflation levels in the country during the current COVID-19 crisis. As of July 2021, the inflation rate for Bicol was 6.5%, 2.5% higher than the July national average.”

“Transportation is one of the key drivers [of inflation]. Our region saw transport inflation reach an eye-popping 13% in July. Food also continues to be expensive and is higher than the regional inflation at 6.6%. This is a direct result of the fact that it is expensive to transport to the Bicol region, the expense coming mostly from travel time. “

Salceda said that currently, overland travel to Bicol could take as much as 13 hours, with almost certain need for stopovers that make land transport expensive.

In subsequent comments, Salceda added that travel to Albay currently takes “between 10 and 15 hours, depending in the traffic situation. With QUBEX, we expect to reduce travel time to just 5 hours, which would make Bicol around as close to Manila as Baguio or Ilocos are.”

“The subsequent saving in time and fuel would help lower food, transport, and logistics costs in Bicol, and would make us competitive for business,” Salceda added.

As Salceda explained in his sponsorship remarks, the project will start at Pagbilao, Quezon and will end at existing Maharlika Highway in San Fernando, Camarines Sur. The project will have an indicative length of approximately 220 kilometers and will be an alternative option of travel from Quezon and the Bicol Provinces. The status of the construction is that the Feasibility Study is already complete.

Earlier, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) suggested that construction could start as early as 2020, but the project was delayed partly due to COVID-19.

Salceda also suggested that the QUBEX should form part of an “integrated transport and economic development strategy” for the Bicol region.

“We are the transshipment point for the Southeastern portion of the country, from Region VIII down to Eastern Mindanao. So, we need a comprehensive transport strategy for Bicol. If you can bisect Bicol with an expressway, restore and improve the train lines, begin operating the international airport in Daraga, and also connect both the Pacific and the country’s inland ports in Bicol, you create plenty of opportunities to save on transport costs,” Salceda said.

“You also have to remember that Bicol is a leading tourist destination, with Albay and Camarines Sur being both some of the country’s top tourist destinations. The region is also a pilgrim site. Both Legazpi and Naga are ‘next-wave’ cities for new industries, and are frequently among the three most competitive cities in the country. We need an interspatial transport backbone, and the QUBEX is an essential part of that backbone,” Salceda added.

“QUBEX will be as important as Bicol Express was in the past. We need it.” Salceda said, referring to the train lines that connected Legazpi City with Manila.

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