The first phase of the Mindanao Railway Project—a 105-kilometer line linking the provincial capital of Davao del Norte to the provincial capital of Davao del Sur—will get an initial P6.58 billion in funding next year, a member of the House appropriations committee said on Sunday.
Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel said the amount is among the items in the Rail Infrastructure Program of the Department of Transportation in the proposed 2018 national budget.
He described the MRP as “an enormous project that will require a lot of incremental funding and take several years to complete by phases.”
“What is important is that the project is finally taking off, and not just being kicked around anymore,” said Pimentel, who is also a member of the House transportation committee.
He said the P6.58 billion will jump-start Phase 1 of the MRP which will eventually be extended and run through the cities of Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, General Santos, Iligan, Surigao and Zamboanga.
The lawmaker said the MRP will cover around 2,000 kilometers, and may well cost up to P120 billion to build, with Phase 1 alone costing P36 billion.
“There’s no question the railway will ease considerably the transfer of people and goods, and propel in a big way Mindanao’s overall social and economic development,” Pimentel said.
Phase 1 of the railway is expected to cut travel time between Tagum and Digos cities from 3.5 hours to 1.3 hours once the trains start operating in 2022, data from the DOTr showed. Itwill have eight stations: Tagum, Carmen, Panabo, Mudiang, Davao Terminal, Toril, Santa Cruz and Digos. A 10-hectare depot will also be put up in Tagum City.
For his part, Senator Juan Edgardo Angara expressed hope that the train system would be a ticket out of poverty for Mindanao’s 21.9 million people who account for almost 40 percent of those living below the poverty line.
“I hope that the train service will be capable of ferrying not just people but cargo as well as the island is an agriculture powerhouse producing, by last count, at least P500 billion worth of farm products a year,” he said.
Mindanao accounts for almost half of the country’s total corn output, around 83 percent of the total banana production, at least 61 percent of total harvested coconut, and around 90 percent of total pineapple yield.
“Rail is the locomotive that will drive Mindanao’s project. It is also a driver for peace because as communities become interconnected, economies are linked, growth spreads, and travel brings cultural exchanges,” he added.