The Mindanao Railway Project (MRP) will push through despite suffering delays as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Opo, matutuloy ito (Yes, this will continue),” Department of Transportation (DoTr) Sec. Arthur Tugade told House Appropriations Committee chairman, ACT-CIS Party-List Rep. Eric Go Yap during Tuesday’s panel briefing on the agency’s proposed budget for 2021.
Yap asked the DoTr officials on the status of the MRP, which was a campaign promise of President Rodrigo Duterte and arguably the flagship project of the administration’s “Build, Build, Build” initiative.
“Matutuloy po ang Mindanao rail (The Mindanao rail project will continue),” Head of Mindanao railways operations head, Asec. Eymard Eje said in support of Tugade’s assurance.
“Sa katunayan po, ngayon ay nasa proseso po kami ng procurement ng project management consultant at hinihintay na lang po namin ang short list ng design and build contractor para makapag-proceed po kami sa bidding process ng design and build contractor (In fact, we together with the project management consultant are now in the process of procurement and we’re just waiting for the short list of the design and build contractor so we may process to the bidding process of the design and build contractor),” Eje said.
“Nagkaroon lang po ng konting delay dahil ho doon sa pagsa-submit po ng ating short list na manggagaling po sa China, epekto po ng COVID pandemic kaya po nagkaroon ng pagbagal (There was just a bit of delay in the submission of the short list from China, an effect of the COVID pandemic that’s why it became slow),” admitted the official.
The new coronavirus that triggered the pandemic first emerged in Wuhan, China in late 2019.
Asked by Yap regarding allegations that the delay has been caused by the switching of contractors for the big ticket project, Eje said this wasn’t true since there is as yet no contractor.
“Wala pa pong napipiling construction company or contractor kaya wala pong katotohanan na nagkaroon ng mga pagpapalit ng contractor (We haven’t picked a construction company or contractor, that’s why it’s not true that we have been switching contractors),” he said.
Eje underscored that the MRP was being carried out in a “clean and transparent” manner.
The House of Representatives had previously allocated an initial amount of P6.58 billion to jumpstart the project, which would be built in stages.
The first stage, which will cost a total of P35.257 billion, will cover a 105-kilometer line from Tagum to Davao, and then Digos. It will cut the travel time from Tagum to Digos to 1.3 hours, down from the current 3.5 hours by road.