By Arjay L. Balinbin, Senior Reporter

THE DEPARTMENT of Transportation (DoTr) has denied a request to relocate a Mindanao Railway facility from landowners and businesses in Toril, Davao City affected by the China-funded project, citing the delays such a relocation would entail.

“The DoTr is closely coordinating with the stakeholders to ensure that the timeline of the project will be followed. The Right of Way and Site Acquisition activities as well as other pre-construction activities shall continue as scheduled and in accordance with the legal processes,” Clipton J. Solamo, project manager of the Mindanao Railway Project (MRP), told BusinessWorld in a Viber message last week.

He said the department received a letter from the affected landowners and business owners requesting that the railway project’s Toril Car Park be moved to another area.

There were also concerns on the valuation of the affected properties “as allegedly it does not (consider) the monthly income derived by the landowners on their properties.”

“As a response, the DoTr regrettably denied their request to move the MRP Toril Car Park because MRP Toril Car Park is a fundamental component of the MRP and moving the same will substantially affect the viability of the Toril station,” he said.

“The MRP has carefully undergone several levels of study. Making any changes at this point will cause so much delay,” he said.

“It will also affect another rising project of the DoTr which is the High Priority Bus System.”

On the property valuation concerns, Mr. Solamo said the department is compliant with Republic Act No. 10752, or the Right of Way Act.

“The proper valuation of the property is determined initially by DoTr’s subconsultant, an independent property appraiser accredited by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, and should the price offered be unacceptable to the landowner or the landowner refuses to submit the documentary requirements for payment, the DoTr shall then commence the expropriation proceedings, wherein the determination of just compensation is left to the sound discretion and wisdom of the courts,” he said.

The government recently awarded the project’s P3.08-billion project management consultancy contract to a Chinese consortium composed of China Railway Design Corp. and Guangzhou Wanan Construction Supervision Co., Ltd.

Transportation Assistant Secretary for Project Implementation-Mindanao Cluster Eymard D. Eje said in a phone message last week that the government is still waiting for the shortlist of bidders from China for the design-and-build package.

The government hopes to start partial operations by March 2022 and full operations by June 2023.