Mindanao railway project moving slow, says MinDA chief

MinDA Secretary Abul Khayr Alonto in an interview on Feb. 13, 2019. MindaNews photo by ANTONIO L. COLINA IV

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/13 February) – Phase 1 of the 1,550-kilometer Mindanao Railway Project is moving slow with only three years to accomplish it before President Rodrigo Duterte’s term ends in 2022, Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Secretary Abul Khayr Alonto said in an interview on Tuesday.

“I am not happy. Why should I be happy when it’s not moving. It’s too slow. Time is not ours. This is a borrowed time.  We are only talking about more than three years, so we have to move fast,” Alonto said.

He said he asked the President to let his agency implement the railway project instead of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) because “they are too busy in Manila” and “MinDA speaks for Mindanao and MinDA knows what Mindanao wants, not what Manila wants.”

He said it is now the call of the President if he would grant their wish to become the lead implementing agency of the project.

“If we are honest-to-goodness in helping Mindanao, what we are asking Manila is to allow us to grow and develop,” he added.

He said there is a big hope for the railway system to push through under Duterte, who supports the project.

‘Ancient railway’

Alonto said he was also disappointed when DOTr initially proposed a one-track and diesel-run locomotive railway project.

“We opposed it. Personally, I opposed it and I officially notified the ADB (Asian Development Bank) that these studies that they have made on this one track railway system, we are not accepting it,” he said.

Changes have since been made after the proposal drew criticisms.

“Why give us an ancient railway system when at the end of the day Mindanao will pay for this. If you buy a car, why buy a secondhand and dilapidated (unit) from the antique shop. Why not new from the factory and you will put it there?,” 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 main depot to be located in Tagum City.

The National Economic Development Authority-Investment Coordination Committee has yet to approve the new proposal.

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 and site acquisition for the first phase of the project.

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

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte did not sign the MOA, saying it is not the job of LGUs to negotiate for road right of way.

The 102-kilometer railway will run from Tagum City to Davao City to Digos City.

The railway system is one of the 12 catalytic programs of MinDA.

The rest include Marawi rehabilitation for livelihood and business development, land resource management, and social services that would need P 16 billion; P42 billion for the establishment of Agro-Economic Zones in Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Agusan del Sur, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, and Basilan; and P15 billion for the Tawi-Tawi Integrated Development Project/Ecozone;

The P25 billion for Picong FreePort and Ecozone in Picong, Lanao del Sur; P39.2 billion for the Mindanao River Basin Integrated Flood Control Projects; P300 million for the proposed Mindanao Executive Leadership Academy in Maramag, Bukidnon; P75 billion for the MinDC Interregional Connectivity Projects comprising roads and bridges;

P100 million for Tourism Assistance Center in 20 strategic areas in Mindanao; P9.8 billion for New Zamboanga Airport in Mercedes, Zamboanga City; and P100 million for Polloc Freeport and Ecozone in Polloc, Maguindanao; and P9.8 billion for General Santos Aerotropolis that is still recommended for a feasibility study. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)