DOTr insists on proposed railway path in Davao City; says it’s cheaper

The Davao City Council holds a committee hearing on the Tagum City-Davao City-Digos City line of the Mindanao Railway Project on February 21, 2019. MindaNews photo by ANTONIO L. COLINA IV

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/21 February) – The Department of Transportation will “reconsider and study” the concerns raised by owners of properties that would be affected by the first phase of the Mindanao Railway Project but maintained the proposed path would cost less and cause the least impact.

Talking to reporters after the committee hearing Thursday with city councilor Jesus Joseph Zozobrado III, DOTr Assistant Secretary Eymard Eje said redoing the alignment on the Davao City side might affect more stakeholders and entail bigger cost on the part of government.

Several stakeholders, mostly residents of the posh subdivision Monteritz located along Diversion Road in Ma-a, Davao City, said they are not against the construction of the railway system.

They said their concern is how the proposed railway alignment would affect their lives since it passes through their subdivision.

One resident who spoke at the committee hearing said her family may not stand the noise from the train, which would pass right behind their home in Monteritz every six minutes. Her husband was recuperating from a mild stroke.

Brian Toh, trustee of the Davao Christian High School, also located in Ma-a, expressed concern their operation might be affected if the DOTr pushes through with the alignment that uses a portion of the lane leading to the school entrance gate.

He said they plan to construct new buildings soon at the back of their property to house their college department, as their campus in V. Mapa Street, Poblacion District here is already congested.

“While the rail is passing through our entrance, the lot at the back is supposed to be our future building. We are planning to put up our college there and it is already planned before we set up that high school and pre-school building,” Toh said, asking DOTr if they can reconsider the alignment.

Eje assured the affected property owners that he will raise their concerns with DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade and hold another consultation with them.

He said the DOTr and city council held the hearing as the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) is pushing for a local ordinance prohibiting the construction of more structures along the path of the railway.

“The good councilor set a hearing to determine which are the properties that will be affected by the alignment so that they will be properly advised what particular areas will be prohibited for further structures,” he said.

He said the government wants to complete the project within the term of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, “otherwise if this will not be finished or even started within the term of the Presidnet we will lose all our chances of having a better transport system in Mindanao.”

There is still no target date for the project’s groundbreaking as the NEDA-Investment Coordination Committee has tentatively scheduled to deliberate on its change in scope and estimated cost on February 28, he said.

Changes in the project scope included 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 the main depot to be located in Tagum City.

These changes also brought the cost up from P35.257 billion to P97.386 billion, which requires the government to explore foreign loans such as official development assistance from China.

In December 2018, five local government units in Davao Region signed a memorandum of agreement with 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 railway project.

These were Tagum City, Panabo City, and Carmen Municipality of Davao del Norte and Sta. Cruz Municipality and Digos City of Davao del Sur.

The LGUs will lead the acquisition of the properties located along the path of the first 102 km of the railway.

Davao City declined to negotiate with property owners as Mayor Sara Duterte said it’s not the responsibility of the local government to lead the RROW acquisition.

The budget allotted for RROW and site acquisition is P6 billion, to be taken from the 2019 General Appropriations Act. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)