Construction of MindaRail to start in Q3

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 12 May) – The construction of the 102-kilometer first phase of the Mindanao Railway Project (MRP) is expected to begin in the third quarter of this year, an official of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said.

Mindanao Railway illustration from the website

Engr. Neil Gabriel Bonto, DOTR-MRP deputy project manager, said in an interview that the agency remains confident that the target construction of the Tagum City-Davao City-Digos City (TDD line) is still feasible even as the government has only a few months remaining before its deadline to have a portion of it operating by the first quarter of 2022.

The DOTr committed to have a partial operability of the segment between Tagum City and Carmen, Davao del Norte, which are 15 kilometers apart, before President Rodrigo R. Duterte will step down on June 30, 2022.

“The start of construction by third quarter of this year is still a possibility, assuming that the Chinese government would be able to identify the three shortlisted bidders of the Design and Build Contract by this month or early June 2021,” Bonto said.

He added that the DOTr can proceed with the procurement once it receives the shortlisted bidders.

“For China ODA (official development assistance) projects, the procurement is done first before the loan, so the MRP will be partially operational next year despite not having a loan agreement yet with China,” Bonto said.

The cost of the entire TDD line is pegged at P81.7 billion.

Atty. Clipton Solamo, DOTr-MRP project manager, said that that the completion of the entire TDD line will take about 17 months, and may be fully operational by June of 2023.

He added that the agency, in coordination with the local government units, is working on the acquisition of the properties affected by the railway track.

He said the agency has already started serving notices of taking to the land owners.

Save for a few property owners, Solamo added that they are mostly cooperative with the government.

“As of now, construction is zero percent but, as you noticed, we’ve been serving the notices of taking to inform the owners that the government will expropriate their properties subject to just compensation,” he said.

The stations of TDD line will be located in Tagum, Carmen, and Panabo in Davao del Norte; Mudiang, Maa, and Toril in Davao City; and Santa Cruz and Digos City in Davao del Sur.

Bonto said the units to be used for TDD line are diesel-operated but assured it would not cause any environmental problems related to smoke emission, assuring the public that the technology used is modern and similar to the ones used in some countries in Europe.

But he also noted that the project “has a provision for future electrification.”

DOTr said the TDD segment will reduce travel time from 3.5 to 1.3 hours between Tagum and Digos Cities and will provide “passengers safe, fast, and reliable transport options on the TDD commuter line.”

It is expected to serve approximately 134,000 riders a day by 2022, up to 237,000 by 2032, and 375,000 by 2042. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)