FIRST District Representative Celso Lobregat is optimistic that the Mindanao Railway Project (MRP) will be realized under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Lobregat said he jubilantly reacted when Duterte has bannered the MRP as one of his administration’s priorities during the first State of the Nation Address (Sona), Monday, July 25.

Duterte said his administration will pursue rail projects in Metro Manila and the major key-points in the country including Mindanao.

“I assure you because it’s going to materialize: Rail projects, the Davao Transit System, the Cebu Transit System, the North and South Luzon Railways and the Panay Railways project,” Duterte said in his Sona.

Duterte added that road development projects “shall complement with our thrust to provide modern agriculture, infrastructural by expanding and improving the construction and rehabilitation of roads and the irrigation and establishing modern harvest and post-harvest facilities to minimize losses.”

Duterte also said he will accelerate infrastructure spending by improving national roads and bridges and implementing the Mindanao Logistics Infrastructure Network and other road network master plans, as well as pursue inter-island linkage projects.

These were the very reason why Lobregat was is pushing for House Bill 123 or an Act Creating the Mindanao Railways Corporation. Lobregat filed the bill on June 30. It was the 125th bill filed with the 17th Congress.

“I am very optimistic that this Mindanao Railway Project will be started under the Duterte administration, considering that it is not only a priority of the President, but a huge necessity in the Mindanao region in terms of inter-connection,” he said.

The Zamboanga City solon said he informed Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, the author of Senate Bill 3095, of his intention to adopt the bill with amendments before he filed H.B. 123 in the House of Representatives.

Pimentel in return was very happy on this development and told Lobregat that it’s a good start.

The MRP, once completed, will enhance interconnectivity and linkages through passenger and freight as well as further boost tourism, trade and commerce in Mindanao.

Mindanao is the second largest island group in the country with an area of 106,000 square kilometers and has a 22 million population with an annual population growth rate of 1.9 percent from year 2000-2010.

The development of the railway system has long been planned but never realized.