Mindanao railway update: LGUs sign MOA with DOTr for land acquisition 

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 26 Jan) — Five local government units in Davao Region signed a memorandum of agreement with the Department of Transportation (DOTr) for the transfer of funds for the road right of way (RROW) and site acquisition for the first phase of the 1,550-kilometer Mindanao Railway Project.

During Kapihan sa PIA on Friday, National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) 11 director Maria Lourdes Lim said Tagum City, Panabo City, and Carmen Municipality of Davao del Norte and Sta. Cruz Municipality and Digos City of Davao del Sur forged a MOA with DOTr in December 2018.

The Mindanao Railway project begins with the first segment, TDD for Tagum City in Davao del Norte, Davao City and Digos in Davao del Sur. Courtesy of www.build.gov.ph

She said the LGUs will lead the acquisition of the properties located along the path of the first 102-km railway project.

The budget allotted for RROW and site acquisition is P6 billion, to be taken from the 2018 General Appropriations Act, she said.

The railway comprises eight stations: Tagum, Carmen and Panabo in Davao del Norte; Mudiang in Bunawan, Davao Terminal and Toril in Davao City; and Sta. Cruz; and Digos in Davao del Sur.

The final alignment of the track in Davao City will have to be determined as a re-consultation will have to be undertaken with several stakeholder groups, among them property owners, to address the issues encountered in the property acquisition.

NEDA assistant regional director Priscilla R. Sonido said the initial alignment identified for the Davao City side passes through high-end subdivisions.

She said the LGUs are “at the forefront of resolving the RROW acquisition issues.”

Last Wednesday, Maria Lourdes Monteverde, former president of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (DCCCII), criticized the DOTr for allegedly having no clear vision as to how it is going to undertake the project, which left property owners in limbo.

She said what remains unclear to them is the compensation package and the portion of their properties that would be affected.

“I was hoping, once they will relocated or displaced, they should be properly compensated so that they can start all over again, so that they can move on. It should not be one-sided. What is happening is that the government is doing it but the implementing agency is causing the delay,” she said.

During its December 13, 2018 meeting, Lim said the NEDA-Investment Coordination Committee deferred its decision on the DOTr’s request for increase of cost and change in scope, pending the reconciliation of the cost and benefit estimation and project packaging.”

According to Lim, the changes in the project scope include changing from a single track to dual track railway; from diesel to electrified railway with 25 kV electrified overhead for the catenary system transmission of electrical energy to the trains wherein the wires are situated above the rails and 26 electrical multiple units; from 102-km. fully at-grade railway to 100 km railway with viaduct for the 26-km. elevated portion; and addition of the satellite depot in Davao City aside from main depot to be located in Tagum City.

Lim added these changes jacked up the estimated project cost from P35.257 billion to P97.386 billion, which requires the government to explore foreign loans.

Finance secretary Carlos G. Dominguez announced during Sulong Pilipinas 2018 at the SMX Convention Center Davao in November 2018 that at least 20% of the budget for the first segment of the Mindanao Railway Project will come from domestic funds and 80% from Chinese loan.

Asked if the government can still push through with the target groundbreaking next month, Sonido said: “At this point, there is no movement. It has not changed yet so it would really depend on the DOTr if they are going to push through with the February schedule but we are also hoping that by then the NEDA-Board would have approved the project.”

She said the government is on track in RROW acquisition but “the implementation itself will have to depend on the approval of the ICC.” The government aims to complete the first phase of the project before President Rodrigo Duterte steps down in 2022.

The MRP aims to eventually connect key Mindanao cities including Davao, Butuan, Surigao, Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, Cotabato, Zamboanga and General Santos. Adrian Tamayo, head of the public relations department of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), told MindaNews the target date for completion of the entire railway project will depend on the availability of funds. Other segments of the MRP still need feasibility studies. He said MinDA’s contribution to the feasibility studies are ridership studies, orgin-destination studies, and willingness to pay studies. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)