Mindanao Railway Project Phase 1 moving forward

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Mindanao Railway Project funding
Image from the Department of Transportation.
  • The Department of Transportation coordinates with the Department of Finance in seeking funding sources for phase one of the Mindanao Railway Project
  • Land acquisitions ongoing from Tagum to Digos via Davao City
  • Resettlement villages for displaced residents in different stages of construction
  • Concept designs completed and form part of the draft bidding documents for the design and build contract

No China, no problem.

Several countries have expressed interest in funding the Mindanao Railway Project (MRP) Phase 1 following the cancellation of financial commitment from China, according to an official of the Department of Transportation (DOTr).

Speaking during the agency’s anniversary town hall meeting on February 6, Transport assistant secretary for planning and project development Lionel De Velez said several interested countries “have approached the department and have said they’re interested in supporting us for this Mindanao Railway Project.”

De Velez said the government is exploring several options for financing the project, which may be through official development assistance (ODA) or through a hybrid method, which may include public-private partnership.

In a separate speech in the same event, Transport Secretary Jaime Bautista said the DOTr is already coordinating with the Department of Finance (DOF) in seeking funding sources.

“We decided to pursue Phase 1 of the MRP despite withdrawal of prior funding commitment from the government of China. While looking for funding sources, various pre-construction activities show we are not dropping the project,” Bautista said.

MRP Phase 1, or the Tagum-Davao-Digos segment, was one of the infrastructure projects that were initially slated to receive Chinese ODA but no progress had been made, prompting the DOF last year to write Chinese Ambassador to Manila Huang Xilian, saying the Philippines was “no longer inclined to pursue” the ODA financing for the project.

The P81.6-billion MRP Phase 1 is a 100.2-kilometer commuter railway from Tagum City, Davao del Norte, to Digos City, Davao del Sur that will have eight stations and two depots.

Once operational, the rail line is expected to serve 122,000 passengers daily and reduce travel time from Tagum City to Digos City to an hour from the current three hours.

Land acquisitions are ongoing along the target alignment from Tagum to Digos via Davao City. Resettlement sites for displaced residents have also been identified with resettlement villages in different stages of construction.

One of the resettlement sites, the Tagum Train Village, is scheduled for turnover to its future residents in the coming months.

Bautista said livelihood programs are also being prepared for the affected families.

De Velez, meanwhile, said the Davao City local government recently included in their zoning ordinance a right-of-way for the railway project.

“We now have a dedicated corridor in the zoning ordinance and the comprehensive land use plan of Davao that indicates where the railway will go. This will essentially future-proof the railway from encroachment or construction that might disrupt the construction and acquisition of right-of-way,” De Velez said.

Transport assistant secretary for railways Jorgette Aquino, said the concept designs for the project are completed and now form part of the draft bidding documents for the design and build contract.

The DOTr on February 4 signed a consultancy contract with the joint venture of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India LLP and ASA Law Firm for the pre-feasibility study on MRP Phase III.

READ: DOTr signs consultancy contract for Mindanao railway project

The proposed railway, starting from Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental, will cover a distance of 54.8 km traversing key municipalities and cities across the region, including Cagayan de Oro City.

The MRP Phase III will be a high-capacity intercity passenger and cargo rail system, the first in Northern Mindanao, said Bautista.