MANILA, Philippines – The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) is now reviewing the feasibility study for the first phase of the Mindanao Railway Project with the intention of having it tackled by the NEDA Board next month.

NEDA Undersecretary for Investment Programming Rolando Tungpalan said the NEDA infrastructure team has committed a six-week turnaround time for the review of the feasibility study submitted by the Department of Transportation (DOTr).

A joint technical board Cabinet committee of the NEDA-Investment Coordination Committee (ICC) may be called next month before the NEDA Board meeting to thresh out project issues.

“We will have a special ICC (meeting) on account of its high priority,” said Tungpalan.

The first phase of the railway comprising some 100 kilometers will connect the cities of Tagum in Davao del Norte, Davao City and Digos in Davao del Sur. These areas, said Tungpalan, would be prioritized because of the high traffic.

The government is still bent on financing the first phase of the railway through internal funding.

“This will be GAA (General Appropriations Act). So we are not committing this to any ODA (Official Development Assistance),” Tungpalan said. The first phase of the project is seen to cost around P120 billion.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia earlier said the operations and maintenance (O&M) of the railway may be auctioned off to the private sector.

The planned railway, which would connect key cities in Mindanao, is a priority project under the Duterte administration because of its potential to boost trade and tourism in the region.

The 2,000-kilometer railway system is deemed crucial for economic development in Mindanao as it would improve inter-island connectivity by linking major cities including Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, Zamboanga, Butuan, Surigao, Davao and General Santos.

Mindanao also stands to benefit from increased trade once the railway system is completed because the island is a potential major transhipment point and center of trade in the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Maysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area region.

The government wants to start the construction at the soonest time possible of the most viable segment of the train system as it is unlikely that the whole rail system would be completed within President Duterte’s term.

The government had also received expressions of interest from four local conglomerates — San Miguel Corp., Ayala Corp., Megawide Construction Corp. and Metro Pacific Investment Corp. to build the railway.

22 May 2017
By Czeriza Valencia