FORMER Mindanao Development Authority (Minda) Chairman and senatorial aspirant Emmanuel Piñol said he will be pushing for the completion of big-ticket projects in Mindanao, including the Mindanao Railway Project (MRP) and Samal Island-Davao City Connector (SIDC) Project (Davao-Samal Bridge), should he win the 2022 elections.

"This is one of the advocacies that I will embrace -- the completion of the committed projects for Mindanao. We need a Mindanaoan who came from an inferior area which understands its need,” Piñol said in an interview on DXRD 711 AM Sonshine Radio Saturday, December 4, 2021.

He said both projects are having issues on road right-of-way and delays in their bidding process.

The P23-billion bridge project was supposed to break ground in July 2020 but was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

National Economic and Development Authority (Neda)-Davao Director Maria Lourdes Lim said the Davao-Samal Bridge will still push through, but there is still no definite date on its groundbreaking.

The SIDC is a two-way four-lane 3.86-kilometer (km) bridge with the main bridge having a length of 1.62-km long.

According to the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines, the SIDC will be "designed in a cable-stayed structure with the twin towers and double cable planes. The construction duration is estimated to last 60 months."

On January 14, 2021, the Philippine and Chinese governments signed a commercial contract for China to finance around $400 million for the SIDC. The two governments began loan agreement negotiations following the signing of the commercial contract.

According to a press statement of the Chinese Embassy in January 2021, “The project is expected to break ground in the first half of 2021.”

In February 2021, Piñol organized the Davao del Norte Infrastructure Monitoring and Advisory Group (IMAG) to oversee major infrastructure projects, including the SIDC project.

As to the MRP, the former Minda chair said the Department of Transportation (DOTr) told him in 2019 that the construction of the railway project would commence in 2020.

"Karon lagpas na sa mid-2021 (2021 is about to end and), we haven't laid out the first riles (railway)," Piñol said.

Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade said during the virtual inauguration of the Metro Davao Bike Lane Network Project in July 2021 that the MRP is pushing through and promised that it will be partially operating before President Rodrigo Duterte steps down in mid-2022.

The 102-km Mindanao Railway Project: Tagum-Davao-Digos segment is the first segment expected to operate and reduce travel time from Tagum City, Davao del Norte to Digos City, Davao del Sur from 3.5 hours to 1.3 hours.

During his tenure in Minda, Piñol and the Regional Development Council (RDC) in Davao Region questioned the approved design of the train system.

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

"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 during the "Mindanao Speaks Up" forum in February this year.

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

Piñol, also a former Agriculture secretary, revealed that his Minda term was supposed to end in 2025.

He said Duterte, his longtime friend, initially urged him to run for the 2019 Senate elections, but he declined, saying that he is not seeking any higher post.

For the 2022 elections, he said his mind changed days before the actual filing of certificate of candidacy (COC) when “not a single aspiring senator” is pushing to resolve the problem in agriculture and food production.

"I will have to volunteer, offer my services to the Filipino people as legislator. Tan-aw nako kung dili nato mabag-o ang polisiya (I think if we would not change policies) in relation to agriculture and fisheries, murag maglisod ta’g (we will be struggling to) recover in the next six years,” he said.

He also said his priority legislation is for the amendment of the Rice Tariffication Law, which he said is not pro-rice farmers.