Saturday, July 27, 2019

Mindanao Railway: Moving Too Slow?

The Mindanao Development Authority wants to take over the project -- Secretary Abul Khayr Alonto claims the project is moving slow.
Mindanao Railway: Exactly When?
The most awaited project in Mindanao encounters another delay, and time is running out.
Mindanao Railway: Moving Too Slow?
The most awaited project in Mindanao encounters another delay, and time is running out.
The Mindanao Development Authority wants to take over the project -- Secretary Abul Khayr Alonto claims the project is moving slow. Secretary Alonto of Mindanao Devlopment Authority (MinDA) said he asked the President to let his agency handle the railway project instead of the Department of Transportation (DOTr), who, according to him, "are too busy in Manila." In an interview on Tuesday, February 12, 2019, the secretary expressed that he was not happy with how the project is progressing.

It is a common notion that we should take advantage of the fact that we have the president who has the heart for Mindanao. Secretary Alonto believed this is a borrowed time that we have a president from Mindanao who supports the project. While we only have three years to accomplish it before President Rodrigo Duterte’s term ends, the secretary believes the project is moving slow, hence, the project must be handed over to, according to him, an agency that speaks for Mindanao and knows what Mindanao wants, not what Manila wants.

“I am not happy. Why should I be happy when it’s not moving. It’s too slow. Time is not ours. This is a borrowed time. We are only talking about more than three years, so we have to move fast,”
Secretary Abul Khayr Alonto
Is It Really Taking Slow?
Too slow, enough to say that the project is no more than a fancy imagination if you view the project in the bigger picture. Too many promises that bring false hope.

The project has been in the agenda of the Philippine government for over four decades already. It has been more than 40 years already since the approval of Republic Act 4156 on June 20, 1964 where it was stated that P55 million (not adjusted for inflation) of the authorized capital of the Philippine National Railway shall be invested for the purchase of motive power and rolling stock for the railway project in Mindanao and for the survey of said railway project.
What is displayed above is a summary of significant events that happened to the Mindanao Railway Project.

On July 2009, the Mindanao Railways Project main office was inaugurated by the then-called Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC). It was reported that Saudi government was keen to finance the project. By the of virtue of executive Order No. 536 dated May 25, 2006, the office opened at 2nd and 3rd Floor Forever Books Building, Bulua Highway, Cagayan de Oro.

The final feasibility study was submitted last August 10, 2009, but no more is heard from the proposed Saudi government funding. Construction of the Mindanao railway project was first scheduled to start in 2011. Planned stations had been laid out. Initial operations were expected to start by 2013.

A Little Bit Of History
Change is constant, even for the Mindanao Railway project. Several plans have already been laid on the table, yet nothing is certain so far.

More cities will have train stations in the original proposal compared to the new one presented by the Chinese. Photo credit to the owner.

The new proposal presented by the Chinese made several changes to the original plan. The heart-shaped rail track will traverse along cities of Davao, Digos, Marawi, Iligan, Cagayan de Oro, Gingoog, Butuan, and Tagum. Photo taken from PTV Facebook page.

The first planned railway system would run across Cagayan de Oro - Iligan corridor as its first phase, complementing Laguindingan Airport's spillover of progress to the coastal towns in Misamis Oriental. Details came out from former Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Constantino Jaraula who said the railway will pass beside Bulua Terminal in Cagayan de Oro with an elevated railway that will connect to Agora Terminal.

“The proposed Cagayan-Iligan Corridor Line of the Mindanao Railways project will have main terminals at Linamon and Jasaan. According to the proposal, Express Stations will be put up at Iligan Port, Laguindingan Airport, and Agora Terminal in Cagayan de Oro City. Intermediate stations will be constructed in each municipality along the corridor.”
But plans drastically changed when President Rodrigo Duterte won the highest office.

On 2017, it had been forecasted that the old proposal will be abolished when the Chinese came into the scene presenting its P218-billion plan. It was confirmed by Alonto himself during Wednesday's Hapi at Kape at Abreeza Ayala Mall Davao City on January 25, 2017.

P218 Billion
The original project cost of the entire Mindanao Railway Project as proposed last 2017.
Mindanao Railway is first envisioned to be a high-speed technology (plans changed after few years), and it would be a government-to-government deal, although former Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia informed that the project would be a combination of official development assistance (ODA) and Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program. It was also mentioned that the deal between the Philippines and China which would initiate construction will be signed on 2017.

It can be recalled that in a Sunstar article published last January 26, 2017, Mindanao Development Authority announced that it will be the Chinese who will fund the project.

And The First Phase Goes To
The government had narrowed down to a plan to construct the railway prioritizing the Tagum-Davao-Digos (TDD) area instead of Cagayan de Oro - Iligan corridor as its first phase. Finance secretary Carlos G. Dominguez announced that 20% of the financing will come from domestic funds while 80% will come from Chinese money.

Mindanao Railway Project: Tagum-Davao-Digos (MRP-TDD) segment will run for 102-km in length, reducing travel time from Tagum City, Davao del Norte to Digos City, Davao del Sur from 3.5 hours to 1.3 hours. “The P35.91 billion MRP-TDD will make travel time faster by two (2) hours, with frequency of trips of up to 6 trains per hour,” says DOTr Undersecretary for Rails, Cesar Chavez. According to DOTR website, the rail line will be built with a single track, with provisions for future tracks and electrification. It will have six 5-car passenger trains (Diesel Multiple Units) with 3 spare cars, 4 locomotives and 15 freight cars.

Major changes can be observed as President Rodrigo Duterte came into office just like, for instance, the first phase of the project which was moved to the Davao Region from Northern Mindanao.

Upon project completion, the DOTr expects the daily ridership of the Tagum-Davao-Digos segment to increase to 134,060 by 2022. The Department projects the daily ridership to further increase to 237,023 by 2032 and 375,134 by 2042.

Ken Terrado currently volunteers as one of the admins of Mindanao Economic Boom. He is also contributing for other blogs about developments. He likes to read Newsweek, Time Magazine, and international news.

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