THE Department of Transportation (DoTr) said the construction start for the Mindanao Railway project is waiting on the completion of negotiations for a Chinese loan.

It said the loan from China can only be secured if the project is bid out first to Chinese contractors.

The DoTr’s timeline for the start of construction was the first quarter of 2021.

“Ito ay magsisimula kapag na-negotiate na po ang loan natin. Then, magkakaroon po ‘yan ng detailed engineering design. After that, magsisimula na right away ang actual construction (It will start when the loan is negotiated, followed by the detailed engineering design contract, and then immediately after comes actual construction),” Transportation Assistant Secretary for Project Implementation-Mindanao Cluster Eymard D. Eje said at an online briefing Wednesday.

Mr. Eje acknowledged that the start of the project is delayed.

“Masakit man pong tanggapin ay totoo pong nagkaroon ng delay (It pains me to say that we have encountered a delay),” he said.

He said the Chinese government has yet to submit its shortlist of bidders for the design-and-build package.

In January, the department said three short-listed Chinese groups had submitted bids for the consultancy contract: the China Railways Design Corp. and Guangzhou Wanan Construction Supervision Co., Ltd. Consortium; China Railway Liuyuan Group Co., Ltd.; and CCCC Railway Consultants Group Co., Ltd.

“All three submitted on time, but one appeared to fail in one of the requirements indicated in the terms of reference,” Mr. Eje told BusinessWorld.

He said the company could still file a request for reconsideration.

The first phase of the Mindanao Railway project is composed of Tagum Station and Depot, Carmen Station, Panabo Station, Mudiang Station, Davao Station and Sub-depot, Toril Station, Santa Cruz Station, and Digos Station.

Mr. Eje said the department still hopes to complete a section that will allow it to claim partial operability — Carmen and Panabo stations — by March 2022. — Arjay L. Balinbin