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Mindanao Railway construction up to next admin —DOTr

The construction of the Mindanao Railway Project might now be up to the next administration as the incumbent government, which is slated to step down in June, is yet to secure Chinese loan funding for the project, a top official of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said Wednesday.

At a virtual press briefing, Transportation Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John Batan admitted that the government was “unable to proceed with the construction as originally scheduled.”

The over P80-billion Mindanao Railway Project, a campaign promise of President Rodrigo Duterte, was originally set to begin construction for its phase 1 or Tagum-Davao-Digos segment in January 2019.

Last year, it was indicated that the construction of the railway project’s phase 1 will begin in the second quarter of 2022 and is targeted to be partially operable by the latter part of the year. 

Since official development assistance (ODA)-funded projects from China requires that procurement must go first before a loan agreement can be signed, Batan explained that the government cannot make progress “since we haven’t received the shortlist of the design-and-build contractors from the China side.”

“Considering that we are about to undergo a transition into the next administration, one of the policy areas that we would like to defer to the incoming administration would be on the way forward for this,” the Transportation official said.

Batan said the DOTr is hoping that the shortlist of contractors for the project’s design-and-build contract will be provided by the Chinese government soon, as he expressed optimism that the next administration will continue the incumbent government’s pipeline of projects.

“We hope the current pipeline of projects that we have will be continued by the incoming administration,” he said.

Marcos Jr. earlier expressed intent to continue the Duterte administration’s Build, Build, Build program as well as build more digital infrastructure.

“The Mindanao railway project phase 1 is 100 kilometers long. Right-of-way acquisition is ongoing. Of course, there are some issues along the way. We’ve already acquired some properties voluntarily, so we followed the procedures under our laws,” Batan said.

“We offered fair market value to the property owners, and some of them have already agreed to sell their properties to us. There are some who would not agree to the fair market value appraisal that was offered, in which case [we will proceed with] expropriation under our procedures, under our local laws. We continue with that process to realize this Mindanao railway project,” he added.

In October last year, the DOTr awarded the Mindanao Railway’s project management consultant contract to the consortium of China Railway Design Corp. and Guangzhou Wanan Construction Supervision Co. Ltd.

The contract, however, only involves the preparation and management of the overall project implementation program, not the actual construction.

The 100-kilometer Tagum-Davao-Digos Segment will link Davao del Norte, Davao City and Digos City with its eight stations.

Once operational, it can accommodate up to 122,000 passengers and reduce travel time from three hours to one hour from Tagum City, Davao del Norte to Digos City, Davao del Sur.—LDF, GMA News