PRESIDENT Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. vowed to continue the big-ticket projects of the administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte, including the Mindanao Railway Project (MRP) and the High Priority Bus System (HPBS) under his administration.

"The infrastructure program of the Duterte administration must not only continue but, wherever possible, be expanded," Marcos said during his first State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday, July 25.

The President highlighted in his speech that he is committed to continue the current portfolio of investments, specially mentioning the 102-kilometer MRP.

Along with other pending railway projects, the President said railways offer great potential to be the "cheapest way of transporting goods and passengers."

"It is my belief also that we have missed some great opportunities to develop our rail transport system," he said.

Marcos also said he will continue to improve the road and transportation systems in key cities throughout the country, including the HPBS.

Marcos cited infrastructure as "backbone of the economy", and that it will remain a priority under his administration to drive economic growth and employment.

He also emphasized he won't be suspending other infraprojects of his predecessors.

"I will not suspend any of the ongoing projects as those have already been shown to be of benefit to the public they served,"

The President also emphasized that the infra development spending will be sustained at five to six percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

The planned expansion of infrastructure projects would be possible through the continuous encouragement of the private sector in the development of the program.

"Public-private partnerships or PPPs hold great potential for that expansion," Marcos said.

He added this would improve other sectors including agriculture, tourism, general economic activities, and governance.

In his words, Marcos also ordered the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to modernize and improve the railway system, airports, and seaports "to maximize strategic location in the Pacific and connect our many islands."

Marcos, earlier July this year, has ordered DOTr to revive its negotiation for the loan agreements with China for the funding of the three big-ticket railway projects of the government under the Build, Build, Build Program.

This after the Chinese government failed to act on the funding requests by the Duterte administration.

The Davao-Digos Railway Project failed to proceed after China was not able to submit a shortlist of contractors.

The negotiations for the projects started in 2018. The loan application was only valid until May 2022.

The Phase 1 of the MRP, which is the Tagum-Davao-Digos (TDD) segment, is a 105-kilometer line that is expected to reduce travel time from Davao del Norte to Davao del Sur from 3.5 hours to just 1.3 hours. It will have eight stations: Tagum, Carmen, Panabo, Mudiang, Davao Terminal, Toril, Sta. Cruz and Digos.

The MRP is one of the big-ticket infrastructure projects of the Duterte administration under the Build, Build, Build program. It is designed to help improve inter-island connectivity and boost economic development in Mindanao.

Meanwhile, Davao City Mayor Sebastian Z. Duterte, during his inauguration speech on June 27, said the city will double its efforts for the completion of the High Priority Bus System (HPBS).

“The preparation of the High Priority Bus System is now in full swing and the city will double its efforts for the fast completion of this project, Dabawenyos are soon to enjoy a modern and efficient transport system that does not only provide comfort but also space economic growth,” Duterte said.

The bus project, conceptualized under the leadership of former Davao City Mayor and current Vice President Sara Duterte, is a public transport system that combines the capacity, reliability, and speed of a metro line with the flexibility, lower cost, and simplicity of a bus system.

Earlier this year, Sara said they plan to proceed with the bidding for the other components of the project including the 1,000 units for the bus fleet, which includes at least 300 electric 18-meter buses.

The depot for the electric buses is part of Contract Package 4 of the HPBS, according to the Department of Transportation's (DOTr) Pre-Bid Conference Presentation. Sasa in the north and St. Nino in the south will serve as its depots.

The electric buses are planned to serve routes in the central business district of the city based on DOTr’s presentation.

The HPBS is eyed to have 29 routes, totaling 672 kilometers in its route network. RGL