THE change in the first phase of the Mindanao Railway Project (MRP) design from two-track electric-powered to one-track diesel-powered might raise issues on the right of way acquisitions, according to Mindanao Development Authority (Minda).
Minda Deputy Executive Director Romeo Montenegro said in a press conference Wednesday, January 15, said that since the project is assumed to be upgraded to be a two-track railway system when it becomes financially viable, issues on the right-of-way acquisitions might arise.
“The assumption is that it is going to be upgraded to a two-track [railway system] later on. Once the [financial] viability is seen to be really doing well, then pwede na siya ma-two-track (another track can be opened) because the right-of-way is designed for two track so dagdagan mo lang ng panibagong riles (you just have to add another railway). Yun lang. (But) What if ang right-of-way acquisition is only good for one track,” he said.
He said these are the common challenges in previous projects wherein two-lane projects could no longer be upgraded to four lanes since the right-of-way acquisition is only good for two lanes and buildings were already constructed in both sides.
He also said the initial design of the first phase might also affect the designs of other phases.
“Considering you started the first phase with locomotive diesel-powered [railway system], does it follow that the next phases of Tagum all the way to Butuan, Digos all the way to Cagayan de Oro will have to be the same design,” he said, adding that the changes can still be lobbied if there are possible reactions from people in Mindanao especially on its leaders, the private sector and the business communities calling for the implementation of the two-track electric railway design instead of the approved configuration.
“Hantod wa pa gisugdan ang project and (As long as the project has not started) there is still opportunity to expect changes on that. There is still [an] opportunity to get that decision from the national government through Neda,” he said.
Montenegro confirmed the reverted design approved by the National Economic Development Authority (Neda) in the same event.
“What was approved by the Neda-ICC (Investment Coordination Committee) last year when it went up for evaluation and final approval was a one-track diesel-powered railway,” he said.
He admitted he had no idea which part of the Neda design was changed.
In the matrix of Neda-approved projects, the Neda ICC has approved a single-track configuration in November 2019 and has increased the budget from P35 billion to P81 billion, which covered the construction of an oil depot in Davao City.
Montenegro said the originally proposed two-track electric-design of the railway has a budget of about P100 billion. It was lowered to P35 billion based on the appropriations for the affected cities but was eventually raised to around P80 billion for the depot.