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Construction of 2,000 km. Mindanao Railway System to start in 2017

The government is likely to start constructing the Mindanao Railway System next year as one of the priority infrastructure projects under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

"It's going to start soon—perhaps next year," Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia told reporters in a briefing in Davao City.

Last May, Duterte revealed he was eyeing a new railway system as his "first big project" as President.

The project details and costs are now being discussed, Pernia said, noting that infrastructure projects in Mindanao are "long overdue."

"When it's completed, it will go around the entire island of Mindanao. It's about 2,000 kilometers," Pernia said.

The project is deemed crucial to economic development in the region. The railway system is expected to connect major cities such as Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, Zamboanga, Butuan, Surigao, Davao, and General Santos.

In terms of funding, Pernia noted the project has attracted the interest from both local and international investors.

"The money is not really a major consideration, because there are so many investors interested ... both local businessmen and foreign investors, as well as ODA [official development assistance]," he said, noting that China and Japan have signified keen interest in the project.

In June, Duterte said China offered to build railways to address the traffic problem in the Philippines.

Pernia said the project—to be executed in two phases—may actually be completed after Duterte's term.

"In terms of completing that railway system, the entire thing, it's probably going to be beyond the administration of President Duterte," he said.

Aside from the railway project, the NEDA chief said plans are also afoot to improve tourism infrastructure and seaports in Mindanao. — Jon Viktor Cabuenas/VDS, GMA News