Mindanao Railway project approaches rollout

MANILA, Philippines – The 2,000-kilometer Mindanao Railway project could move closer to a rollout when the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board, led by President Rodrigo Duterte, meets next month.

"[The NEDA Board] will meet in February. We will have an ICC (Investment Coordination Committee) first somewhere in between," NEDA Director-General Ernesto Pernia said on the sidelines of a forum last week.

Tabled for approval, among others, are the proposed railway project that will connect key Mindanao cities including Davao, Zamboanga, Butuan, Surigao, Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, and General Santos; as well as an inter-island bridge that will connect the central islands of Panay, Guimaras, and Negros, said Pernia.

The NEDA director-general said the Mindanao railway project "will be broken into phases" and will be a combination of official development assistance (ODA) and public-private partnership (PPP).

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade earlier said that this "high-priority" project is targeted to be rolled out before 2017 ends.

Pernia had said China, Japan, and Korea were interested in financing the project. (READ: Duterte: My first major project is a railway)

Aside from ODA from other governments, Pernia said 4 private firms are also considering the railway project – San Miguel Corporation, Metro Pacific Investments Corporation, Ayala Corporation, and Megawide Construction Corporation.

Revival of Panay-Guimaras-Negros bridge

Another project that could be given the green light to start procurement is the Panay-Guimaras-Negros Bridge that is estimated to cost P21.67 billion.

The project will be implemented under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and has a construction period of 6 years.

The feasibility study for the old inter-island bridge project was made by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

But the "Korean Export-Import Bank has already taken steps for the new feasibility study," the DPWH had said in October.

Under the original plan, the project covers 3 phases: First is the construction of a bridge from Iloilo to Guimaras, the second will be Guimaras to Negros Occidental, and the last section covers the extension to Cebu.

Duterte had vowed to solve Metro Manila traffic through decongesting the megacity by spurring development in the provinces. He had said one way to do this is to improve interconnection of provinces through railways and bridges. (READ: Duterte's dream legacy: 3 major train lines across PH– Rappler.com