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Gov’t bracing for legal steps in land acquisition for Mindanao railway

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THE GOVERNMENT may have to go to court to assert its eminent domain for the first phase of the Mindanao Railway System (MRS) project as some land owners are not keen to let go of their properties that are on the path of the train track, a regional official said. The first segment of the MRS covers the cities of Tagum, Davao, and Digos, all in Davao Region. “We are still negotiating with the landowners to acquire right of way (ROW) for the track. As of now negotiation is not final yet,” Davao del Norte Governor Anthony G. del Rosario, also the chair of the Davao Regional Development Council, told the media last week in Tagum City. At this stage, however, Mr. Del Rosario said some owners have already expressed disinterest in negotiating with the government. “We are still in the early stages, some are difficult to talk to… It is really big piece of properties so it is not easy, what makes it difficult (also) is there are so many owners to talk to,” he said in mixed Filipino and English. About P1 billion is being allocated for the acquisition of ROW, he added. The 102-kilometer MRS phase 1, with a total projected cost of P36 billion, will have eight stations and a main depot in Tagum City. Construction is targeted to start by Jan 2019. — Maya M. Padillo