By Carmencita A. Carillo, Correspondent
DAVAO CITY — Construction of the first phase of the P85-billion Mindanao Railway Project, which covers the Tagum-Davao-Digos segment, is targeted to start in January 2019 and operations expected by 2021.
“We hope to finish the right of way (ROW) acquisition along the alignment and the stations by December 2018. We expect to award the winning contractor, since this is a design and build contract, also by end of this year so we can start construction of railway by January next year,” Mindanao Railway System (MRS) Project Manager Patricia Melizza B. Ruivivar said in an interview.
Ms. Ruivivar, who presented the plan to the Davao city council on Tuesday, said the MRS has been tagged a priority project and President Rodrigo R. Duterte wants the trains running a year before he leaves office in 2022.
“We need the support of the local government units (LGUs) because they will play a big role in the implementation of a project as big as the Mindanao Railway,” she said.
Mr. Duterte, who was previously mayor of Davao City, wants the LGUs to lead in the negotiations for the site acquisition since they would know the landowners and this would allow for stronger project support at the community level.
Ms. Ruivivar assured that the government is prepared to pay fair market prices.
The 102-kilometer phase 1 has a budget of P36 billion, to be sourced from the General Appropriations Act (GAA) up to 2021.
Work on the detailed engineering design is ongoing, with the plan now adjusted to a single-track electric system from an earlier two-track plan.
Ms. Ruivivar said they are hoping to get approval from the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) on this new adjustment within August.
“We hope to get the NEDA approval by August, and by November the bid documents will also be released and awarded by December this year,” she said.
Ms. Ruivivar said they are also tapping the LGUs for the planning of the stations, which could have tourism and commercial establishments.
Phase 1 of the railway will have eight stations: Tagum City, Carmen, and Panabo City in Davao del Norte; Mudiang, central Davao, and Toril in Davao City; and Sta. Cruz and Digos City in Davao del Sur.
A 10-hectare depot will also be built in Tagum.
Ms. Ruivivar said academic institutions will also have a role to play by opening engineering courses relating to railways.
“We want the city council’s support to develop a plan on educating human resource to support the development of the railway industry,” she said.