By Maya M. Padillo, May 6 2019; Business World

Image Credit to Business World

DAVAO CITY — Construction of the Mindanao Railway System (MRS) has been moved to the fourth quarter this year as the government reviews the alignment in Davao City following resistance from affected homeowners.

In August last year, Project Manager Patricia Melizza B. Ruivivar — after presenting the plan to the Davao City council — said the first phase of the MRS, covering the 102-kilometer Tagum-Davao-Digos (TDD) segment, was targeted to start by Jan. 2019.

Transport Secretary Arthur P. Tugade, in a press conference here Friday for the Tsuper Iskolar scholarship program launch, said that his department has already finalized the alignment and the downloading of funds for right-of-way acquisition, but residents of a gated subdivision in the city have appealed for reconsideration.

In February this year, members of the Monteritz Classic Estates Homeowners Association Inc. (MCEHAI) asked the Department of Transportation (DoTr) to review the railway’s alignment, particularly the viaduct that would hit their area with 40 homeowners and 67 lot owners affected.

Also in February, the South Pacific Golf and Leisure Estates Homeowners Association appealed for reconsideration. No house in the high-end subdivision will be directly hit by the train track, but it will traverse the 18-hole golf course, including its newly built clubhouse, which cost P550 million.

Eymard D. Eje, Department of Transportation assistant secretary for Project Implementation-Mindanao Cluster, said his office has been working to resolve the issues, emphasizing that the new transport system is being planned to cause the least public disturbance.

“When there is a development, especially if it is national(-funded), there will always be people that will be inconvenienced. There will always be difficulty because you are putting a new system,” Mr. Tugade said.

“I hope our approach here is not just personal concerns, let’s look at the benefit for the majority… That is why we are requesting for a fuller understanding and a wider patience,” he added, speaking in mixed Filipino and English.

Despite the delay, the Transport chief said the department is intent on having the railway at least partially operational by 2022.

“Our goal for the Mindanao railway is partial operability of the stations in Tagum City, Digos City, and Davao City,” Mr. Tugade said.

“It is our goal that there will be partial operability of these stations by first or second quarter of 2022. I am trying to fast-track and move forward… These will be constructed simultaneously.”

The Tagum-Davao-Digos segment is estimated to cost about P35 billion and will be partly funded by official development assistance from China.

It is planned to have eight stations, with three in Davao del Norte (Tagum City, Carmen, Panabo), three in Davao City (Mudiang, Davao central, Toril), and two in Davao del Sur (Sta. Cruz, Digos).

A 10-hectare depot will be built in Tagum. — Maya M. Padillo