THE DEPARTMENT of Transportation (DoTr) said it expects to make significant progress in securing official development assistance (ODA) from China for the Mindanao Railway Project this month.
Mindanao rail system
Transportation Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John R. Batan told reporters last week that the government is now reviewing the revised specifications and scope of work for the railway project before turnover to China, which will compile a shortlist of contractors for the project.
“We’re in the process of finalizing the approvals then we should be done. Our target is approval on the Philippine side by March,” he said Wednesday after the Metro Manila Subway groundbreaking ceremony, noting that the key approvals are from the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Investment Coordination Committee (ICC).
“As soon as we get that approval, the process starts for China ODA loans (begins with a) request a shortlist of three qualified contractors. Then once we receive the shortlist, we may start the bidding because the bid documents are done,” Mr. Batan added.
The Mindanao Railway Project consists of circumferential and spur lines connecting Tagum to Surigao and other areas of the island. Last year, the DoTr approved changing the specifications and scope of work of the project from diesel single track to electric double track.
Last month, the DoTr also started studying the realignment request of a homeowners’ group to avoid inconveniencing some property owners.
Mr. Batan said because of the changes, the cost of the project is still uncertain at this point. “That’s part of what’s being reviewed by the ICC. So as soon as we get the approval, that’s when we will have a definite total project cost for the upgraded system,” he said.
Right of way acquisition for the train line has started, with Mr. Batan saying the DoTr wants to conduct the groundbreaking within the year, or by the third quarter at the earliest.
“Land acquisition is ongoing. So everything, what we call the advanced works (and) pre-construction surveys, they are ongoing in Mindanao,” he said.
The Mindanao Railway Project is expected to become the country’s first train system outside Luzon, which is targeted for completion by 2022, when President Rodrigo R. Duterte steps down. — Denise A. Valdez