House committee eyes P6.58B for initial phase of Mindanao railway

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/14 August) – The committee on appropriations in the House of Representatives has earmarked an initial amount of P6.58 billion to start the construction of the 1,500-kilometer Mindanao Railway Project (MRP), the Department of Transportation (DOTr) announced.

The budget will be allocated for the phase of the railway system that will run from Tagum City in Davao del Norte, pass through Davao City, and end in Digos City in Davao del Sur.

The entire project, which would cost P211.43 billion, seeks to connect all key cities of the island such as Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, Zamboanga, Butuan, Surigao, General Santos, and Davao.

A press release posted on the DOTr website on Monday said the appropriation came a month after the National Economic Development Authority approved phase 1 of MRP that will cost P35.257 billion.

Citing committee member Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, it said that the MRP “is an enormous project” and that it is important that it is “finally taking off and not being kicked around anymore.”

It also cited Sen. Sonny Angara commending the administration for approving phase 1 of the project.

“A train system can be a ticket out of poverty for many of them. Cheap, reliable and fast movement of goods would increase incomes and value to products,” he said.

The senator, who chairs the Senate ways and means committee chair, said the project is “also a driver for peace because as communities become interconnected, economies are linked, growth spreads, and travel brings cultural exchanges.”

The construction of the 105-kilometer line of phase 1 is eyed to start by third quarter of 2018, and is expected “to reduce travel time from Davao del Norte to Davao del Sur from 3.5 hours to just 1.3 hours” upon completion by 2021.

It will have eight stations: Tagum, Carmen, Panabo, Mudiang, Davao Terminal, Toril, Sta. Cruz, and Digos. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)