The first half of 2020 will be a busy one for the Philippine Department of Transportation (DOTr) as it aims to start the Subic-Clark railway project. Inquirer reported that Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade confirmed this information.

The train line will serve as a vital part of the DOTr to develop a "logistics hub" located in Central Luzon. The Subic-Clark railway will serve that hub and will span 71 kilometers. It will be built and funded by Chinese companies.

Tugade, talking about the project, said that they aim to begin construction of the railway by the first quarter of next year. This is an early estimate; if it doesn't push through, the DOTr secretary said a second quarter-start is the next best schedule.

This railway system will connect the historic Port of Subic in Zambales to an emerging metropolitan site in the Clark site in Pampanga, where the province's international airport is also being improved. The Subic port in Zambales is the very same port which served as a US naval base until the early 1990s.

In order for the government to give the green light for the project, a list of contractors must be completed. PhilStar Global reported that the Philippine government expected to receive a possible shortlist of the qualified contractors from China in the hopes that it will be able to meet the earliest possible target of starting the project in the first half of 2020.

DOTr secretary Tugade revealed that the Chinese Embassy already submitted a previous list to the Philippine government consisting of three Chinese companies. Of these three, one has been "blacklisted" and has since been disqualified. It was also the reason the secretary cited as to why a new list is awaited by the authorities.

Tugade said that the government agency hoped China could finish the shortlist within the month, so the project could move forward as planned. Upon completion of this shortlist, Tugade said that the DOTr will select a company out of the three through a bidding process.

The Chinese government will also fund a 581-km PNR rehabilitation project, which will stretch the existing line all the way to Bicol. Another project is the Mindanao railway project. The first phase will stretch about 102 km and will span the distance from Digos to Tagum in the region.

Other big-ticket projects in the Philippines include the 30-km Metro Manila subway and the 147-km North-South railway, stretching all the way from Calamba, Laguna to Clark, Pampanga. The Japanese government has been tasked to fund these projects.