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First phase of MRS seen to meet timeline

The first phase of the Mindanao Railway System (MRS), a key infrastructure project of the Duterte administration, is expected to meet its target completion date of 2022.

“In terms of timeline, it is still the same because the first part that has to be accomplished is the road right-of-way (RROW), which is already funded under the GAA (General Appropriations Act) of about P9 billion for 2018 for the Tagum (Davao del Norte)-Davao City-Digos (Davao del Sur) portion,” said Assistant Secretary Romeo M. Montenegro, Mindanao Development Authority deputy executive director.

Montenegro said the RROW must be immediately addressed because this challenge usually leads to the delay in project implementation.

In some instances, land owners refuse to allow the government to use their properties for government-initiated projects because of low compensation rate. In such cases, government initiates expropriation proceedings to force the owners to agree with government-implemented compensation schemes.

Montenegro said the government is hoping that property owners will agree with the government compensation rate so that the project implementation can be started soon.

He added that the detailed engineering phase has analyzed the route, the requirements, and a group has started negotiations with the property owners for the RROW as the construction of the project is set to start late this year.

Initially, the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) approved a P36 billion budget for a single-track, Tagum-Davao City-Digos locomotive system.

However, Mindanao leaders, both those in government and the private sector, were able to convince the national government to revert to the original plan of setting up a two-track electricity-driven system which would need about P86 billion in funding.

At present, Montenegro pointed out that the Department of Transportation and the NEDA have been finalizing the plan to implement the project.

“Regardless of the proposal for reversion to a two-track electrified railway, preliminary processes, followed by the detailed engineering are expected to be completed on time,” Montenegro said.

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