By Antonio Colina IV
DAVAO CITY – Newly installed Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) chair Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol said he will be discussing with Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade the issues affecting the implementation of the first phase of the Mindanao Railway Project.
During the turnover ceremony at the office of the MinDA on Tuesday, Piñol said he will also revive the move to make MinDA the main implementing agency of the entire railway project, an idea that was previously proposed by late Chairman Abul Khayr Alonto to expedite the implementation of the project.
The secretary, who served as secretary of Department of Agriculture, said he considered the railway project as necessary for the development of Mindanao, particularly for the farmers, as he believed the project “will trigger greater agricultural productivity” in areas that will be traversed by the rail.
“The railway development mura na og manok og itlog (it’s like a chicken and egg situation), sometimes where there is so much production there is a need to build the railway but in the experience of America they built railways even without production, and suddenly settlements sprouted along the train routes,” he said.
Citing his experience as governor of Cotabato from 1998 to 2007, Piñol said road projects created more opportunities for the people.
“I saw this when I was governor of North Cotabato. Whenever we built roads leading to remote areas, the following week, you would see farmers plowing the field. When we build railways actually maaring dadaanan na areas, maaring wala pang production (it might pass through several areas that are not producing yet) but the opening of railway system in those areas will actually result and trigger greater agricultural productivity,” he added.
Phase 1 of the 1,550-kilometer Mindanao Railway Project will cover 102 kilometers connecting Tagum City, Davao City, and Digos City (TDD line), which would have eight stations, namely: Tagum; Carmen; Panabo; Mudiang in Bunawan, Davao City; Davao Terminal; Toril; Sta. Cruz; and Digos.
Last July 10, 2019, the National Economic and Development Authority-Board’s Investment Coordination Committee-Cabinet Committee (ICC-CabCom) approved the increase in the project’s estimated cost from P35.9 billion to P82.9 billion.
In its press release, the DOTr, which is expected to complete the project by 2022, projected that the daily ridership of the Tagum-Davao-Digos segment to increase to 134,060 once it becomes operational. The DOTr projects the daily ridership to further increase to 237,023 by 2032 and 375,134 by 2042.
The increase was intended to cover the cost for the changes in the project scope included changing from a single track to dual-track railway; from diesel to electrified railway with 25 kV electrified overhead for the catenary system transmission of electrical energy to the trains wherein the wires are situated above the rails and 26 electrical multiple units; from 102-km. fully at-grade railway to 100 km railway with viaduct for the 26-km. elevated portion; and addition of the satellite depot in Davao City aside from the main depot to be located in Tagum City.
According to DOTr, the railway’s first segment will reduce travel time from Tagum City, Davao del Norte to Digos City, Davao del Sur from 3.5 hours to 1.3 hours once it starts operating in 2022.