DAVAO CITY — The government is expecting to receive the shortlist of bidders for the first phase of the China-funded Mindanao railway from the Chinese Embassy within the month, a transport official said.

“The Embassy of China in the Philippines promised to send the shortlist of bidders for the Mindanao Railway Project (MRP) this month,” Transportation Assistant Secretary Eymard D. Eje, who handles the Mindanao cluster project implementation and special concerns, said in a phone interview last week.

The P82.9-billion project will be financed through an official development assistance (ODA) loan package from China.

Mr. Eje said that under an executive agreement between the two countries, “only Chinese contractors will be nominated by the Chinese government to join the bidding” for the MRP.

The railway’s first phase runs between Tagum City in Davao del Norte and Digos City in Davao del Sur, passing through Davao City.

Two contract packages are up for bidding, one for project monitoring consultancy and the other for design-and-build.

Mr. Eje said the department will immediately proceed with the bid as soon as it receives the list.

The MRP, one of the Duterte administration’s priority infrastructure projects, was originally scheduled to start construction in January 2019 but right of way (RoW) issues, mainly in Davao City, held back the timetable.

Mr. Eje said the railway realignment in Davao City has been identified.

Tagum City, where a depot will also be located, will start accessing RoW funds for land acquisition this month and the other local governments along the 102-kilometer track are scheduled to follow soon.

The national government allocated P500 million for the railway’s land acquisition component, including fees for appraisal, survey works, and administrative costs.

The MRP will be a single-track, non-electrified railway with eight stations located in Tagum, Carmen, Panabo, Sta. Cruz, Digos, and three in Davao City. — Maya M. Padillo