House panel sets aside P6.5B for Mindanao railway line

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The House appropriations committee has earmarked an initial amount of P6.58 billion to jumpstart the Mindanao Railway Project (MRP).

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Committee member and Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel over the weekend said the amount is part of the items in the Rail Infrastructure Program of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) 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,” according to Pimentel, also a member of the House transportation committee.

He said the P6.58 billion will jumpstart Phase 1 of the MRP–the 105-kilometer line linking Tagum City, the provincial capital of Davao del Norte, via independent Davao City, to Digos City, the provincial capital of Davao del Sur.

The railway will eventually be extended and run through the cities of Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, General Santos, Iligan, Surigao and Zamboanga.

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.

The lawmaker added that he is also counting on the MRP to spur thousands of construction-related and support jobs that are bound to benefit low-income families.

Phase 1 of the railway is expected to cut travel time between Tagum and Digos from 3.5 hours to 1.3 hours, once the trains start operating in 2022, according to the DOTr.

Some 120,000 passengers are anticipated to hop on the train every day in its first year of operation.

The railway will have a single track at the start but will have provisions for additional tracks plus electrification.

Phase 1 will have eight stations: Tagum, Carmen, Panabo, Mudiang, Davao Terminal, Toril, Santa Cruz and Digos.

A 10-hectare depot will be put up in Tagum.

Six five-car passenger trains will be deployed every hour.

The trains will also have 15 freight cars and three spare cars.

JAMES KONSTANTIN GALVEZ

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