DAVAO CITY – The strong collaboration between the Department of Transportation (DoTr) and the Local Government Units (LGU) in Davao region, particularly in the land acquisition phase, is seen to fast-track the multi-billion Mindanao Railway Project (MRP).

MRP Deputy Project Manager Patricia Bello-Ruivivar said the involvement of the LGUs and other stakeholders will pave way for a more efficient, inclusive and transparent process in project implementation.

Ruivivar hopes the partnership and stakeholders’ participation mechanism would be replicated by other LGUs involved in the MRP project.

Ruivivar, during the Kapihan sa PIA on Friday, said the LGUs of Davao City, Davao del Norte and Davao del Sur for the Tagum-Davao-Digos segment are actively taking charge in negotiating with property owners for the project's right of way.

Ruivivar is optimistic that the land acquisition process would be completed by December this year, adding it may take in the form of negotiated, sale or donation. After that, she said DoTr can start other permitting requirements.

“We can start the construction by then (March) and by 2021 the train can operate,” she said.

The Tagum-Davao-Digos (TDD) segment has a length of 102 kilometers with a dual or electrified track. There will be eight stations with two depots in Tagum and Davao. The first phase is seen with a daily ridership of 120,000 by 2022.

Ruivivar said the design and Build bid documents have been prepared and released.

She reiterated the commitment of DoTr to make the MRP project before the term of President Rodrigo Duterte ends in 2022.

The MRP is an 850-kilometer Ring Railway with 700-kilometer spurs (secondary track). The ring railway will cover the Davao-Nabuntrual-Butuan (256 kilometers), Butuan-Cagayan de Oro-Iligan (285 kilometers), and the Iligan-Cotabato-Davao routes (289 kilometers).

Ruivivar said President Rodrigo Duterte wanted another spur which will connect Davao to Cagayan de Oro via Malaybalay that will cut travel time from six to two hours.

The plan to build an inter-regional transport system in Mindanao was first brought up under former President Ferdinand Marcos but years passed and the project languished.

Regional Director Ma. Lourdes Lim of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA)-11 said the MRP has a budget allocation of PHP5.78 billion for 2018.

MRP is part of the overall Flagship Infrastructure Projects of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte representing key investments considered as priority to materialize the “Build, Build, Build” program. (Lilian C. Mellejor/PNA)