DAVAO CITY — Mindanao’s business leaders are hoping for more clarity on the southern island’s new railway, which is expected to begin construction later this year.

Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc (DCCCII) President Arturo M. Milan told BusinessWorld that he is expecting to obtain clarification on the status of Mindanao Railway and other flagship infra projects in Mindanao.

The region’s business leaders are coming off the Mindanao Business Conference (MinBizCon) weekend in Iligan City, where they discussed the implications of greater connectivity within the island promised by the upcoming rail network.

Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade said in May that construction of the Mindanao Railway System (MRS) has been moved to the fourth quarter as the government needs to review the track alignment in Davao City.

Two months ago, the Transportation department announced that the costs were adjusted upward for the Mindanao Railway Project Phase 1 due to the need to traverse rolling terrain, while the rail line was downgraded to single track and non-electric to speed up implementation.

“I hope that we will be able to fast-track and I think everything… should be finished also before the end of the administration of our President because you know how it is in Philippine politics — (when) the government changes, priorities change. If we only have the plans now and nothing is moving, well the apprehension is the plans might not be realized,” according to Joji Ilagan Bian, a former chair of the Mindanao Business Council (MBC).

She said there is a need to prioritize other connectivity projects within Mindanao such as roads.

”The road network is there but (journeys) are difficult,” she said.

Ms. Bian is positive that projects for Mindanao will be completed by 2021 as promised by President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

“The trend now is really to make sure that everything works out according to plan and I think if everyone just supports the government we should not have a problem because the budget is there,” she said.

Ms. Bian is also expecting infrastructure investments to grow specifically for Iligan and Cagayan de Oro cities.

“It has been realized the movement of people and trade within our intra-Mindanao region is also very difficult and it hampers investment,” she said. — Maya M. Padillo