Proposed bills on Mindanao rail, power firm approved

THE bills creating the Mindanao Power Corporation (Minpocor) and the Mindanao Railways Corporation (MRC) have been approved recently at the committee level in the House of Representatives (HOR).

House Bills (HB) 122 and 357, authored respectively by Representatives Celso Lobregat and Maximo Rodriguez Jr. and seeking the creation of the Minpocor, were approved by the committee on government enterprises and privatization and committee on energy after the joint hearings.

Both bills seek the non-privatization of the Agus-Pulangi Hydropower Complexes and the creation of the Minpocor to operate the power plant.

"It seems the Agus-Pulangi Hydropower Complexes remain a lucrative endeavor and economically-viable entity, but all efforts are geared towards their privatization. Happily, privatization will not happen because the people of Mindanao always oppose it. And even the President of the Republic has enunciated his favor to retain the Agus-Pulangi Complexes," said Rodriguez, who is also chairman of the committee on Mindanao affairs.

The HBs 123, 358, 1653, 2066 and 3159, authored respectively by Representatives Lobregat, Rodriguez, Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, Mark Villar, and Divina Grace Yu, were approved after the hearing of the committees on government enterprises and privatization and on transportation chaired by Representative Cesar Sarmiento.

The bills seek the creation of the MRC prescribing its powers, functions, and duties, and providing for the necessary funds for its operation. "If this Mindanao Railways Corporation works, this will be a breakthrough for all 22 million people in Mindanao. The region spans 106,000 square kilometers, but our mode of transport is very poor. The only way for us to move forward and progress tremendously is to have a proper transport system all over the island," Representative Manuel Zubiri said in a statement.

House Bill 3909, authored by Zubiri, was also approved by the committee. The bill seeks the creation of the Mindanao Railways Authority (MRA). The creation of the institution is also part of the legislative agenda of the 17th Congress.

"The bill was originally filed in 1987, during the 8th Congress. It was continuously refiled in the succeeding Congresses, but always failed to reach the Plenary. But now in the 17th Congress, with our President coming from Mindanao and the proposal being among the top legislative agenda of the House, the long-awaited dream may come true with the construction and operation of the Mindanao railways system," Sarmiento said in a statement.

After the approval of the bills and its consolidated versions, the committees proposed that necessary amendments be made in the Plenary.

"Infrastructure and power are the backbone for the future economic development in Mindanao. With the approval, we look forward to the eventual implementation of these projects to be able to realize the long overdue progess for the island of Mindanao," said Captain Ronald Go, Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Inc. president.

"These two bills are very vital to the economic well-being of Mindanao. It will bring down our logistic cost and provide security of power for Mindanao to invite manufacturing to set up shop here. It will provide quality jobs for our people in Mindanao," Mindanao Business Council chairperson Vic Lao said.
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