Photo from Department of Transportation
Photo from Department of Transportation

Piñol: Railway design 'not what Mindanawans asked for'

THE single-track design for the first phase of the Mindanao Railway Project (MRP) is "not what the Mindanawans were asking for," Mindanao Development Authority (Minda) Chairman Emmanuel Piñol said in a recent forum.

Piñol made the recent pronouncement during the "Mindanao Speaks Up" forum on Wednesday, February 10, with different chief executive leaders in Mindanao.

MRP, one of the major infra-projects in Mindanao that was designed "to spur the economy and lower the cost and improve the ease of transportation," is currently under phase one out of the 10 total phases.

As of now, Piñol said only one segment is still in its procurement stage: the Tagum-Davao-Digos (TDD) segment.

Based on the project's description, the TDD segment of the railway project is expected to reduce travel time between Tagum City, Davao del Norte and Digos City, Davao del Sur from 3.5 hours to 1.3 hours.

National Economic and Development Authority-Davao Region (Neda-Davao) Director Maria Lourdes Lim said MRP-TDD "shall provide the passengers traveling between Tagum and Digos a safe, fast and reliable transportation on the TDD commuter line."

"If plans do not miscarry, the construction of the railway project will begin by the second quarter of 2021," Lim said in a virtual presser.

Based on the timeline given to them by the Department of Transportation (DOTr), the schedule of the construction is expected to last until the second quarter of 2022. Partial completion of the project is expected within the first quarter of 2022 and full operations at the end of the second quarter of the same year.

"TDD is expected to serve approximately 134,000 riders a day by 2022 and up to 237,000 by 2032. Daily ridership is estimated to increase to 375,000 by 2042," she said.

Initially, the original proposal was a two-rail electric train system, but the DOTr approved the monorail locomotive system.

Both Minda and the Regional Development Council (RDC) in Davao Region questioned the approved design.

"Andyan na yan, aprubado na ng Neda yan. (It's already there, which had the approval of Neda.) There's hardly anything we can do about," Piñol said.

But he also said, "Let's be frank about this, this is not what the Mindanawans were asking for."

Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (DCCCII) Maria Lourdes Monteverde, who represented the city's business sector during the forum, also questioned the implementing agency's lack of coordination.

"There is no joint coordination, like what is happening in the Mindanao Railway Project, and the Davao Bypass Road," Monteverde said.

She also questioned the delays of its implementation.

"It took a long time before the national has other planned program for this. So walang (There is no) coordination, and the private sector has extended so much of its resources," the chamber president said.

The MRP has a total of more than 1,500-kilometer railway composed of 10 different segments: TDD; Digos-General Santos-Marbel; Tagum-Butuan; Marbel-Kabacan-Bukidnon-Cagayan de Oro (CDO)/Davao-Bukidnon-CDO; Butuan-CDO; CDO-Iligan-Pagadian; Pagadian-Cotabato-Kabacan-Digos; Pagadian-Dipolog; Pagadian-Zamboanga; and Butuan-Surigao.

Meanwhile, the "Mindanao Speaks Up" forum tackled top priority projects and programs in Mindanao that have yet to be implemented or are experiencing delays. Among the highlights are the progress of some top infrastructure projects.

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