Gov’t to push through with Mindanao railway and Davao-Samal bridge projects despite COVID-19  pandemic

DAVAO CITY  (MindaNews / 04 June) – The multi-billion phase 1 of the Mindanao Railway Project and the Davao City-Island Garden City of Samal (Davao-IGACOS) Bridge project will continue even as the country is still grappling with the impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Presidential Adviser for Flagship Programs and Projects Vince Dizon said.

In a press briefing here on Thursday, Dizon assured Dabawenyos that the implementation of the long overdue big-ticket projects would not be stalled due to the pandemic.

“Makakaasa po ang ating mga kababayan dito sa Mindanao lalo na sa Davao Region na matutuloy po ang mga proyektong ito (Our people in Mindanao, especially in Davao Region, can expect that these projects will push through),” Dizon said.

The Davao Region. Map courtesy of Google

The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA)-Board confirmed the P23.04 billion Davao-IGACOS bridge project in November 2019 and the P81.9-billion phase 1 of the railway project in December 2019 after given the go signal by the Investment Coordination Committee (ICC)-Cabinet Committee.

The government will pursue a single-track diesel-run railway, instead of a modern dual-track electricity-powered technology for the China-funded first 102-kilometer Tagum City-Davao City-Digos City (TDD) segment of the Mindanao Railway Project.

In January this year, Transportation Assistant Secretary Eymard Eje said the Department of Transportation (DOTR) originally targeted to hold the groundbreaking of the railway project within the first quarter of 2020.

No groundbreaking happened.

Phase 1 will have eight stations, namely: Tagum; Carmen; Panabo; Mudiang in Bunawan, Davao City; Davao Terminal; Toril; Sta. Cruz; and Digos.

The 1,550-kilometer Mindanao Railway Project aims to connect key cities of Davao, Butuan, Surigao, Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, Cotabato, Zamboanga and General Santos upon its completion.

The DOTr targeted to see the partial operation of the TDD segment by end-2021 and full operation before Duterte’s term ends, Eje said.

According to DOTr, 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 DOTr projects the daily ridership to further increase to 237,023 by 2032 and 375,134 by 2042.

For the P23.04 billion Davao-IGACOS bridge project, Engr. Sharif Madsmo H. Hasim, project director of Roads Management Cluster II of the central office of Department of Public Works and Highways, said in an interview last January that the Asian Development Bank eyed to complete the detailed engineering design by December this year or January 2021.

In a briefer emailed by the DPWH, the objectives of the Davao-Samal bridge project include providing a “resilient and reliable transportation link between Metro Davao and  IGaCoS, enhancing internal mobility and external linkage to support the growth potential of the Davao Region” and “ease of access to tourism activities in IGaCoS, enhance community access to employment, education and other social services and alternative route during emergency situation and disasters.”

According to the NEDA, the Davao-Samal bridge aims to provide a permanent road linkage between Davao City and the Island Garden City of Samal (IGaCOS) resulting in the reduction of travel time and reliability constraints currently experienced through the use of ferry services.”

It added that construction of the bridge, which can serve around 25,000 vehicles a day, is scheduled from 2021 to 2024 and is expected to operate by 2025. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)