MindDA exec says House shakeup won’t affect major projects in Mindanao

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 31 July) – The recent change of leadership in the House of Representatives will not hamper the implementation of big-ticket projects in Mindanao, an official said on Tuesday.

“It’s just a change of leadership and so far as commitment to transforming Mindanao and making sure these projects are implemented, it remains there whoever assumed leadership,” Romeo Montenegro, Mindanao Development Authority executive deputy director said in an interview.

Former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo replaced Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez as Speaker hours before President Rodrigo Duterte would deliver his 3rd State of the Nation Address last July 23.

Montenegro said the implementation of phase 1 of the Mindanao Railway Project is on track as well as some other large infrastructure projects in the island.

He said the railway project remains a top priority.

“Regardless of who pushed for this, considering that these are vital Mindanao projects, then we are confident these will be carried on by the new leadership in the House,” he added.

P36 billion was approved under the 2018 General Appropriations Act for a one-track, diesel-run locomotive but the Department of Transportation later reverted to its original plan of a two-track electricity-run railway worth P86 billion.

The government will start negotiations with property owners this year for the settlement of road right of way before implementing phase 1 of the railway project, Montenegro said.

He said the government allotted P9 billion to acquire the properties that would be in the path of the 102-kilometer railway from Tagum City to Davao City, and to Digos City.

The first segment will comprise eight stations, namely: Tagum, Carmen and Panabo in Davao del Norte; Mudiang in Bunawan, Davao City; Davao Terminal; Toril; Sta. Cruz and Digos in Davao de Sur. A 10-hectare depot will be built in Tagum.

The government targets to complete the acquisition within the year, Montenegro said.

The official said they are also pushing for Islamic financing called “Sukuk” to fund government and private-led projects in the island through the state-owned Al Amanah Islamic Bank.

A proposed bill to revitalize the country’s Islamic banking has been pushed in Congress to access this financing scheme because “you need an Islamic finance-abled banking institution” through which government and external funds would be channeled for government projects in Mindanao.

“We would like to strengthen our proposal for the government to eventually look at employing Islamic finance for many projects in Mindanao,” he said.

One of the biggest Sukuk fund issuers in the world is Malaysia, he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)