Draft bills forming Mindanao railway agencies clear first reading


The Philippine Lower House has approved on first reading the bills that will create a Mindanao Railways Corporation (MRC) and a Mindanao Railways Authority (MRA), and pave the way for the construction of Mindanao’s first railway system.

The Lower House’s committees on transportation, and government enterprises and privatization, in a recent joint hearing, approved House Bills (HBs) Nos. 123, 358, 1653, 2066, and 3159, creating the Mindanao Railways Corporation. The bills prescribe the MRC’s powers, functions, and duties, and provides for the funds for its operation.

MRC will be attached to the Department of Transportation (DOTr), with the power to own and operate railroads, tramways, and other kinds of land transportation, vessels and pipelines for transporting passengers, mails, and property between any points in Mindanao.

The panels also approved HB 3909, which will create the MRA. The proposed railway authority will be responsible for the construction, operation, and maintenance of a railway system in Mindanao. MRA should also hold the assets of the Philippine National Railways (PNR), and acquire and maintain and operate the grants, concessions, and franchises now held by PNR, but limited to only those located in Mindanao.

The committees also approved related proposals HBs 250, 1867, 2037, and 4182, amending certain provisions of Republic Act No. 4156, or the law creating the PNR. The bills aim to modernize, revitalize, and rehabilitate the country’s railway authority.

Transportation committee vice-chairman and Samar First District Representative Edgar S. Sarmiento said the creation of MRC is included in the legislative agenda of the Lower House this 17th Congress.

“The bill was originally filed in 1987, during the 8th Congress. It was continuously refiled in the succeeding Congresses, but always failed to reach the Plenary. But now in the 17th Congress, with our President coming from Mindanao and the proposal being among the top legislative agenda of the House, the long-awaited dream may come true with the construction and operation of the Mindanao railways system,” Sarmiento said.

Zamboanga Representative Celso Lobregat said HB 123 aims to “complement government projects that will address the lingering problems of poor quality of roads and incomplete road networks” in some parts of Mindanao.

“Since the President is from Mindanao, we would like to see how this dream will become a reality,” said Cagayan de Oro Second District Representative Maximo Rodriguez, Jr., while emphasizing how the PNR failed to deliver to Mindanao a railway system.

Bukidnon Third District Representative Manuel Zubiri said his brother, Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, has filed a bill identical to his proposal to create an MRC. He said it is high time for government to spend more money in the countryside, especially in Bukidnon, which is at the center of Mindanao and has no airport or seaport.

“If this Mindanao Railways Corporation works, this will be a breakthrough for all 22 million people in Mindanao. The region spans 106,000 square kilometres, but our mode of transport is very poor. The only way for us to move forward and progress tremendously is to have a proper transport system all over the island,” Zubiri stressed.

Deputy Speaker and Batangas Second District Representative Raneo E. Abu and Rodriguez suggested that concerned agencies check the blueprint for Mindanao and the feasibility study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency to avoid repeating processes and further delaying the project.

The bills will be consolidated and the necessary amendments proposed in the plenary.

A Mindanao railway is also a priority infrastructure project of the Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area.

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