By Hannah Torregoza
Reelectionist Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara is pushing for the creation of a state-owned Mindanao Railways Corp. which would oversee the efficient operation and maintenance of a train system eyed to be built in the country’s second largest island this year.
Angara said having in place the proposed “MindaRail” would assure Mindanaoans the continuous operation of a railway system that has the potential to bring peace, economic development and reduced poverty in Mindanao.
“After years of conflict and neglect, Mindanao and its people will get to experience long-overdue progress once the railway system is completed,” said Angara, who is seeking another six-year term in the Senate.
Angara made the pitch for the “MindaRail” following the assurance of the Department of Transportation (DoTR) that the actual construction work for the first phase of the much-awaited Mindanao Railway Project will start on the 4th quarter of 2019. The DoTR said it aims to begin railway operation by 2022.
The 102-kilometer railway would link the cities of Tagum, Davao and Digos after its construction over the next three years.
Angara sought the creation of the “MindaRail” through Senate Bill No. 137 in 2016. The proposed entity will have a capital stock of P1-billion and an 11-member board — all to be appointed by the President.
Link growth corridors
Angara has been pushing for MindaRail while still a member of the House of Representatives.
Under his proposal, MindaRail will maintain a head office in Davao City.
Once completed, Angara said the Mindanao rail system will link the island’s urban centers and growth corridors.
“Rail is the locomotive that will drive Mindanao’s progress. It is also a driver for peace because as communities become interconnected, economies are linked, growth spreads, and travel brings cultural exchanges,” said.
The railway system will not only ferry people but also cargo as the island is an agriculture powerhouse.
In 2017, Mindanao had the second biggest contribution to the total agricultural production at 32.58 percent. By subsector, the shares were 38.85 percent crops, 23.8 percent livestock, 19.61 percent poultry, and 31.38 percent fisheries.
Home to about 24 percent of the country’s population, Mindanao also accounts for over 40 percent of the poor, Angara noted.
“A train system is the ticket out of poverty for many of them,” Angara said, pointing out that cheap, reliable and fast movement of goods would increase income and add value to produce.