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DoTr seeks exemption from public works ban

The Balagtas Station of the Philippine National Railway Clark Phase 1 Project is currently under construction. Photo taken on June 14. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

By Arjay L. Balinbin, Senior Reporter

THE DEPARTMENT of Transportation (DoTr) is asking the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to exempt its infrastructure projects, including the long-awaited Mindanao railway, from the public works ban ahead of the election season.

“A request has been made by DoTr  to Comelec for exemption of all DoTr projects,” Transportation Assistant Secretary Eymard D. Eje told BusinessWorld in a phone message on Saturday.

“Comelec said that they cannot process our request as there are no guidelines yet. We will just refile it once guidelines are out,” he added.

The Comelec said public works ban for the May national elections will run from March 25 to May 8, 2022. The public works ban covers disbursement and spending as well as construction activity. This is aimed at preventing politicians from using state resources for their election campaign.

If the Comelec does grant an exemption for DoTr projects, the construction of the first phase of the Mindanao Railway project is expected to start in April 2022, project manager Clipton J. Solamo said.

Funded by China, the Mindanao rail project was initially expected to start partial operations in March 2022 and full operations in June 2023.

In the revised “indicative” timeline provided by Mr. Solamo on Sept. 13, construction work is now expected to begin in April 2022.

The government now hopes to start partial operations in October 2022, and full operations in October 2023.

The railway’s P82.9-billion first phase stretches from the Tagum Station and depot in Davao del Norte to Digos City in Davao del Sur. It will have stations in Carmen, Panabo, Santa Cruz, and three in Davao City, including a sub-depot.   

Mr. Solamo said that “notices of taking” have been issued to 69.90% of affected properties in Tagum, 10.78% in Carmen, 96.69% in Panabo, 90.67% in Davao City, 85.26% in Santa Cruz, and 86.84% in Digos.

The Mindanao rail’s P3.08-billion project management consultancy contract has been awarded to a consortium composed of China Railway Design Corp. and Guangzhou Wanan Construction Supervision Co., Ltd.

The government is awaiting the shortlist of bidders from China for the design-and-build package.

Based on the revised list of infrastructure flagship projects, ongoing DoTr projects that are targeted for completion next year include the Taguig Integrated Terminal Exchange, Cebu Bus Rapid Transit, and Davao Public Transport Modernization Project.

The Metro Manila Subway Project is expected to start excavation activities in the first quarter of 2022.

The partial operations segment (San Pablo, Candelaria, Lucena, and Pagbilao) of the PNR Bicol Project is expected to start in the first half of 2022.

The Malolos-Clark segment (PNR Clark Phase 2) of the North South Commuter Railway is likewise expected to be partially operational next year.