A “one-time, big-time” approach to constructing the ambitious Mindanao Railway Project (MRP) would work in favor of the long-deprived provinces down south.
This appeared to be the sense of the House Committee on Mindanao Affairs Tuesday as they backed during a virtual hearing the desire of Lanao del Norte 1st district Rep. Khalid Dimaporo to have the national government conduct a complete feasibility study (FS) on the multi-phase project in one shot, instead of phase by phase.
“We have seen that the Mindanao Railway will be tackled phase by phase; the first phase is the Davao-Tagum line, and then there will be a Phase 2, and it continues up to Phase 10,” panel chairman Dimaporo said, referring to their discussions on the MRP last October 27.
“I think this is the point that all of us are concerned about, as Mindanao legislators. Sana lang (Hopefully) the FS wouldn’t be done phase to phase, and if possible also the railway won’t be done phase by phase, if possible simultaneously,” he said.
A flagship project of the Duterte administration, the 10-stage MRP will span over 1,500 kilometers once finished. The single-track, diesel-type railway system will link Davao to Surigao and traverse key cities and provinces like General Santos, Marbel, Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, Pagadian, Digos, Dipolog, Zamboanga, and Surigao.
Department of Transportation (DoTr) Usec. Timothy John Batan told the solons during the previous hearing that so far, only Phase 1 of the project has a detailed FS. A detailed FS–which costs tens of millions of pesos–is needed before actual construction can take place, Batan said.
Dimaporo said Tuesday that he agrees with the sentiment of his fellow Mindanaoan, Iligan lone district Rep. Fredrick Siao that the MRP should be constructed and completed in one go so as to not leave any of the provinces behind. This is hinged on the belief that the MRP would bring unprecedented progress to Mindanao.
“If it’s the will and the wish of legislators, na kung may paraan either through foreign grants or through the General Appropriations Act, is it possible for us to have the FS done simultaneously kung may pondo tayo? (Is it possible for us to have the FS done simultaneously, if in case we have the funds either through foreign grants or through the General Appropriations Act?)” Dimaporo asked MRP Project Manager, lawyer Clipton Solamo.
“I think if we have the funds, then yes it’s possible, we can find a way,” Solamo replied.
To give an idea of the needed funds, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) previously made a baseline FS on the MRP when it was only envisioned to be a three-phase endeavor. That activity cost the agency P50 million.
After hearing Solamo’s answer, OFW Family Party-List Rep. Bobby Pacquiao moved to amend House Resolution (HR) No.727 so it could seek to direct the DoTr and NEDA to conduct the FS on all of the phases of the MRP simultaneously. Bayan Muna Party-List Rep. Eufemia Cullamat seconded the motion.
The panel discussions on the MRP was initiated by Dimaporo via his filing of HR No.727.
“Likewise also in the resolution, it should state and highlight that the Mindanao Railway is only as of now, one-track non-electric. It is the will of the members of Congress that the plans of the DoTr (on) the Mindanao Railway would be (upgraded) to dual-track electric railway,” Dimaporo said.
“We want our Mindanao Railway to be at par with international standards and I think that’s what it demands,” he further said.