THE start of the construction of the China-funded Mindanao railway phase 1 has been moved to the first quarter of 2021, with the government yet to decide on a contractor.

The Transportation department is targeting the start of construction for the Mindanao Railway Project-Tagum-Davao-Digos (MRP-TDD) by the first quarter of 2021, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Region XI said in a recent statement.

The Transportation department said in December that the groundbreaking for the project would be in the first quarter of 2020, but it did not happen.

Transportation Assistant Secretary for Project Implementation-Mindanao Cluster Eymard D. Eje told BusinessWorld by phone Monday that the department had received from the Chinese embassy the shortlist of bidders for the project monitoring consultancy package of the rail works.

Mr. Eje said the department is still waiting for the shortlist of bidders for the design-and-build package.

The list of bidders for the build-and-design contract was expected in June.

The P82.9-billion railway’s first phase, covering the 100.2-kilometer Tagum-Davao-Digos segment, will be financed through an official development assistance package from the Chinese government.

In its statement, NEDA Region XI said there was a special meeting on July 21 where Project Manager Clipton J. Solamo “reported that the validation of affected parcels in Digos City, Davao City, Panabo City, Carmen, and Tagum City is at 100%, while the Municipality of Sta. Cruz was at 69%.”

“Atty. Solamo further reported that the tagging of structures would be at 100% before the end of July 2020.”

It also said the Transportation and the Public Works and Highways departments were undertaking a study “to resolve the alignment interfaces between the MRP-TDD and the ongoing Davao City Bypass Construction project, which will commence construction in the third quarter of 2020.”

Also discussed at the meeting was “the updated timeline for the implementation of the MRP-TDD in view of the postponed field operations due to the COVID-19 quarantine,” NEDA Region XI said. — Arjay L. Balinbin