DAVAO CITY — The proposed two-track electric train system for the main line of the Mindanao Railway System (MRS) has been approved by the Department of Transportation (DoTr), a Davao-based business leader said.
Arturo M. Milan, president of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (DCCCII), said the approval was announced during the June 13 meeting of the Regional Development Council’s (RDC) Infrastructure Development Committee.
“This latest report is a big improvement, and not only for phase 1, Davao-Tagum-Digos, but the entire project,” Mr. Milan, who sits as private sector representative in the RDC, said during Wednesday’s Habi at Kape media forum.
The RDC was among those that pushed for an expanded and more environment-friendly MRS, which was originally planned around single-track system with diesel trains.
Secretary Datu Abul Khayr D. Alonto, chair of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), who was at the same forum, also confirmed the new MRS model.
“We have realigned the program. It will be an electric train, two-track railway system, and it will be the same (train from) Davao-Tagum-Digos all the way to Surigao to the other areas of Mindanao,” he said.
The MRS, which could break ground before the end of the year, will be funded through official development assistance (ODA) from the Chinese government.
Meanwhile, Mr. Alonto said MinDA is set to present before the Cabinet in July the long-standing proposal to create a body that will manage the Davao International Airport (DIA).
“We will also push for the immediate approval for that Davao International Airport Authority,” he said, noting that the rehabilitation and expansion of the facility is crucial to improving connectivity.
The DCCCII has been pushing for the establishment of the airport agency, which would be similar to those handling the Mactan International Airport in Cebu and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Metro Manila.
Mr. Milan said the establishment of such a management body will allow the airport to become autonomous from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), which handles 86 airports nationwide, including 15 in major cities.
Mr. Milan said the argument that CAAP would lose a significant source of revenue if the DIA is taken out of its jurisdiction is unsound.
The Davao airport should not subsidize other airports, he said, because “that is the role of government (which provides the budget for CAAP).”
“You should not penalize an airport that is efficient in making money; you deprive them of their growth and (ability to finance) modernization,” he added.
A proposal for the creation of a Davao airport authority has been pending before Congress since the early 2000s. — Maya M. Padillo and Carmelito Q. Francisco