Although it is implemented during his administration, President Rodrigo Duterte said credit for the Mindanao Railway System (MRS) should go to those who first conceptualized it and past presidents who supported the project.
The US$9 billion MRS that aims to spur the economic development of Mindanao, is one of the multi-million peso mega-projects under President Duterte’s “Build, Build, Build” program.
I cannot claim credit for it, not even congressmen, said Duterte, without naming names, in a speech during a recent gathering of businessmen at the SMX Convention Center in Davao City, as he gave a preview of some projects under his administration’s massive infrastructure building program.
The proposed 1,530-kilometer MRS project would crisscross Mindanao with a railway system from the Zamboanga Peninsula in Western Mindanao to the Davao Region in Southeastern Mindanao.
The idea of a Mindanao railway was an infrastructure dream supported by the presidency of the late Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Benigno Aquino that was never realized due to funding lack.
A Davao City transit system was initially proposed by the Regional Development Council (RDC) of the Davao Region decades ago in the early 90s.
But the project never took off the ground after being proposed during the administration of the late then President Aquino by the Davao RDC then chaired by the late industrialist Jesus V. Ayala during the first term of then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
Then Mayor Duterte during the Benigno Aquino administration also proposed a Davao City Light Railway Transport (LRT) system, but the proposal was not acted upon by government.
The Mindanao Railway System has now been given flesh under President Duterte’s “Build, Build, Build” program.
Implementation of the Mindanao-wide railway system has started to roll in the Davao Region.
The first railway component of the MRS — the P95 million Tagum-Davao-Digos (TDT) line — will be funded not by the Philippine government but by the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA).
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the local government units of Davao del Norte, Davao City and Davao del Sur are set to sign a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on November 29 for the initial PHP5.6 billion budget for the 102-kilometer Tagum-Davao-Digos line, the first segment of the MRS project.
Primarily the fund will be for acquisition cost of properties affected by the project.
The CIDCA funding shoots down a claim that Davao del Norte First District Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez facilitated funding for the TDT line under the General Appropriations Act (GAA) when he was the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Alvarez, ousted in July 2018 two years into his term as Speaker and replaced by former President now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, is seeking reelection in the 2019 mid-term election.
In a bid to jack up figures in his performance card, his camp claims Alvarez during his short stint as Speaker poured P16 billion worth of infrastructure projects into Davao del Norte, including funding for the MRS TDT line, the proposed Davao-Samal Island Bridge and the Tagum City Flyover.
The P19 billion proposed Davao City-Samal Island Bridge, a 4.4-km span connecting Davao City to the Davao del Norte tourist island in the Davao Gulf, is still subject of a feasibility study.
The feasibility study funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is backstopped by the “Study on the Project for Construction of Davao-Samal Bridge” conducted by Katahira & Engineers International in 2016; and the Davao-Samal Bridge section of “The Study on the Davao Integrated Development Program (DIDP) Master Planning March 1999,” of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
Presidential daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, Davao del Norte Governor Anthony del Rosario who chairs RDC XI and Second District Rep. Antonio Floirendo Jr. have urged President Duterte to fund the project under the “Build, Build, Build” program.
Gov. del Rosario said that Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jinhua informed him during a meeting in Davao City that the feasibility study on the Davao-Samal bridge is about to be finished.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has also dismissed Alvarez claiming credit for the Tagum City Flyover.
According to the DPWH in Region Eleven, the P3 billion 1.4-km Tagum City Flyover has long been in its drawing board and got funding as a “Build, Build, Build” project of President Duterte.