Stick to original plan

Mindanao leaders disfavor one-track train system

MINDANAO leaders have called on the national government to stick with the original plan of building a two-way electricity-run Mindanao Railway System (MRS) as the Department of Transportation (DOTr) announced recently it is scheduled to start a modified plan of the project in the third quarter of the year.

In a text message to TIMES over the weekend, Vicente Lao, chair of the Mindanao Business Council (MBC), said the original plan is what Mindanao needs, not the one-track locomotive type train system, which will eventually become obsolete in a very short time.

“The information that the Tagum-Davao-Digos segment of the Mindanao Railways System is now being downgraded to one-track and non-electrified is simply unfortunate,” said Lao as he pointed out that the Regional Development Council endorsed a two-track electricity-run design for the first segment which will run between Tagum City in Davao del Norte in the northern side and Digos City in Davao del Sur in the southern end.

Unlike the two-track system where two trains can travel simultaneously in opposing direction, this cannot be done in a one-track system unless a rotunda is built.

This developed as the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) is calling on the national government to make it the lead implementing agency for the project.

Romeo Montenegro, deputy executive director of MinDA, said they have already discussed the proposal with the DOTr. “In principle, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade is okay on that proposal,” Montenegro told the reporters in an interview.

Data from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) bared that a fund of P31.5 billion is already allocated for the Tagum-Davao-Digos segment, the first out of the 12 segments of the 830-kilometer railway network.

Montenegro said the national government is still completing the detailed engineering so that it could initiate the bidding for the project.

MinDA further proposed that feasibility studies should also be conducted for 11 other segments of the network so these would be simultaneously implemented soon and be completed on or before 2022.

Montenegro said the DOTr recently approved the proposal to pursue feasibility study on the second segment, the Tagum City and Butuan City portion. “The department (DOTr) is currently waiting on the budget for the feasibility study of the second segment,” he said.

The MRS is among the big-ticket projects that would be set up in the island. It is envisioned to connect the cities in the island for faster transportation of goods and passengers.

MinDA chair Abul Khayr Alonto said there are already offers from different investors that wanted to set up the system, which would be further reviewed to determine the best for the project.

“With the MRS, this current great divide in Mindanao will be dismantled,” Alonto said.