RROW negotiations for Mindanao railway start this year

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/13 July) – Negotiations with property owners to settle road right of way matters for the implementation of phase one of the Mindanao Railway Project will start this year, an official from the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) said.

MinDA executive deputy director Romeo Montenegro said in an interview on Wednesday that the government allotted P9 billion to compensate owners of properties that would lie along the 102-kilometer Tagum-Davao-Digos railway.

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

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

“What we would expect is for the process to go on smoothly, for right of way process to be accomplished in a manner where we secure it smoothly with the property owners because the usual challenge in the right of way is dispute in agreements as to pricing and then eventually government imploring its imminent domain authority. We don’t want that to happen,” he said.

He added they hope to settle it with property owners as they do not want to encounter legal issues later on that would delay the implementation of the railway.

“We don’t want to see these types of projects encountering legal hurdles later on or cases filed. It will have an impact on timelines of the project as with all other big ticket infrastructures projects encountering delays because of legal issue,” he added.

He said they would need the help of local government units with the right of way settlements.

The budget for the right of way settlement was part of the P36-billion budget under the 2018 General Appropriations Act, which was intended for a one-track, diesel-run locomotive.

But the Department of Transportation (DOTr) later reverted to its original plan of a two-track electricity-run railway worth P86 billion.

Montenegro said this is still subject to approval by the National Economic Development Authority-Investment Coordination Committee, which consists of Finance sectary as chair, the NEDA Director-General as co—chair, and the executive secretary, secretaries of Agriculture, Trade and Industry, Budget and Management and the Governor of the Central Bank of the Philippines as members.

Negotiations will begin once the detailed engineering plan is finalized, he said.

The official said the DOTr has been conducting ocular inspection on the ground, using drones to determine the ground works needed like whether it’s necessary to drill a tunnel through mountains or build a viaduct before laying the rail tracks.

Actual construction may happen in the later part of 2020, he 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 agency projects the daily ridership to further increase to 237,023 by 2032 and 375,134 by 2042. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)