Chinese funding for Mindanao Railway Project ‘a done deal’

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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/31 August) – The construction of phase 1 of the Department of Transportation’s Mindanao Railway Project with funds from Chinese Official Development Assistance “is a done deal,” project manager Patmei Ruivivar said.

Ruivivar told a press conference on Friday that this was confirmed to her by Transportation Undersecretary for railways Timothy John Batan.

Batan joined the high level meeting between Cabinet secretaries and other senior government officials and their Chinese counterparts last week to discuss the administration’s infrastructure projects.

But Ruivivar said she was not aware if the two countries had signed any agreement as the funding package was being handled by the Department of Finance.

She said she was not also informed how much in initial funding the Chinese government has committed out of the P130-billion financial requirement to build the 102-kilometer phase 1 of the two-track electricity-run railway that will straddle Tagum City, Davao City and Digos City.

The budget was previously set at P36 billion, which was intended for a one-track and diesel-run locomotive before it was changed to a two-track electricity-run railway.

Maria Lourdes Lim, National Economic Development Authority 11 director said the NEDA Board has adopted and approved a set of guidelines for Chinese financing to hasten the processing of ODA loans with the DOF and Department of Foreign Affairs, with the Department of Budget and Management and NEDA working on top of this.

“This is an added safety measure to ensure that ODA through Chinese financing would be above board,” she said.

Ruivivar said much of the initial work for the railway is focused on the acquisition of road right of way with the different local government units which are conducting an evaluation of the would-be affected families.

“They are now in the process of identifying the residents who will be affected by the alignment and stations. So far, the way it is planned and designed is away from urban centers. It’s mostly in the suburbs so there will be less affected landowners,” she said.

She said they target to finish the acquisition of RROW before the end of the year.

“No major problem when we presented it to partner LGUs. They said they can do it in two months – the land acquisition,” she said.

The DOTr said the railway’s first segment will reduce travel time from Tagum City, Davao del Norte to Digos City, Davao del Sur from 3.5 hours to 1.3 hours once it starts operating in 2022.

It added the rail line will be built with a single track, with provisions for future tracks and electrification. It will have six five-car passenger trains with three spare cars, four locomotives and 15 freight cars.

Upon project completion, the DOTr expects the daily ridership of the Tagum-Davao-Digos segment to increase to 134,060 by 2022.

The Department projects the daily ridership to further increase to 237,023 by 2032 and 375,134 by 2042. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)

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