By Madelaine B. Miraflor
More than a decade since its conceptualization, Mindanao Railway Project (MRP) is finally pushing through in the second quarter of next year as the government began identifying the properties that need to be bought for the construction of the ambitious express system.
Transportation Undersecretary Cesar Chavez said on Monday that the Department of Transportation (DOTr) is now planning to start the construction of MRP Phase 1 Tagum-Davao-Digos Segment — which forms part of the 2,000-kilometer (km) Mindanao Express System — by the first quarter of 2018.
According to him, the DOTr already set aside as much as P6.5 billion for the acquisitions of land properties where MRP Phase 1’s train stations and tracks will be built.
It was just last week when the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board already gave its green light to MRP Phase 1, which will cost around P35.26 billion to construct and will be funded through General Appropriations Act (GAA).
This phase involves the establishment of a 102.28-kilometer commuter railway from Tagum City in Davao del Norte to Digos City in Davao del Sur.
It is now expected to be operational by 2020 through DOTr’s effort to fast-track the Right-of-Way acquisition.
“For the Tagum to Digos (railway). The fund is already there. (We have allotted) P6.5 billion for land acquisition and some engineering. Next year, we can start the construction. We are now working on land acquisition because we need to acquire 340 hectares of property to cover the 103 kilometers,” Chavez said.
“By first quarter of 2018, we will buy the land. In the second quarter, we will start the construction,” he added.
Chavez said that most of the properties that will be acquired are private and agricultural lands.
According to him, the DOTr is now planning to develop a separate Project Management Office (PMO) for the MRP, which would require an executive order (EO) from the President.
In 2016, former President Gloria M. Arroyo issued an EO ordering the creation of the Cebu Railway Project Office (CRPO) and the Mindanao Railway Project Office (MRPO) which both should pursue the development and implementation of railway projects in Cebu City, Metro Cebu, and in Mindanao.
It was in 1990s when the concept of an express system going around the entire Mindanao region was put into the table.