By Richmond Mercurio, May 14 2019; Philippine Star

Image Credit to Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The development of the country’s first train system outside Luzon is expected to gather steam this month with the expected reapproval from the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) of the Mindanao railway project.

“We’re hoping to get reapproval for the updated configuration, from single to double track, from diesel to electrified, within May,” Transportation Undersecretary for railways Timothy John Batan said.

Batan said NEDA’s reapproval is required given the updated plan for the train system.

The Mindanao railway project is now being envisioned to be a two-track, electric, and standard train system, instead of a previously single-track system with diesel trains.

“When we do our investment decision, we need to make sure it’s viable so we just need to make sure that all the requirements are in place,” Batan said.

NEDA’s reapproval will pave the way for the project’s bidding to commence. The Mindanao railway project will be financed through an official development assistance from China.

The project in its entirety will consist of 1,532 circumferential and spur lines that will connect Davao provinces, Iligan, Cagayan de Oro, General Santos City and Zamboanga.

Phase 1 of the Mindanao railway project, which will cover the Tagum-Davao-Digos segment, is a 102-kilometer rail line that will have eight stations and a depot in Tagum.

The Department of Transportation is targeting to start construction of the first phase next year, and eventually complete it by 2022.

Under the Duterte administration’s ambitious Build Build Build program, the Mindanao railway system is a key component of the infrastructure masterplan for Mindanao which also include the expansion and modernization of various airports, seaports, maritime facilities, and the region’s public transportation system.