Author Topic: Dream train for Mindanao still in the doldrums  (Read 1301 times)


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Dream train for Mindanao still in the doldrums
« on: December 01, 2019, 11:52:52 AM »
Dream train for Mindanao still in the doldrums

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 27 Nov) – More than halfway into President Rodrigo Duterte’s six-year term, the dream train that he promised to build in Mindanao, potentially using Official Development Assistance (ODA) from China for the first phase, has yet to gain steam.

The development of a railway facility in the south failed to take off in the past 50 years spanning six presidents until the then Davao City mayor revived it as a campaign promise in the 2016 presidential race.

Duterte, the country’s first president from Mindanao whose term will end on June 30, 2022, formally identified the Mindanao railway as one of the government’s priority infrastructure projects during his first State of the Nation Address on July 25, 2016.

But three years on, not a single hole had been dug for the ceremonial groundbreaking rites usually afforded to big-ticket projects.

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China has committed to fund Phase 1 of the Mindanao Railway Project (MRP), an offshoot, among others, of the warming bilateral ties between the two countries following Duterte’s pivot to Beijing months after assuming power in 2016.

The MRP’s Tagum-Davao Digos (MRP-TDD) segment, stretching 102 kilometers, was supposed to start last year but design changes delayed the target.

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New construction target set in 2020

According to the Department of Transportation (DOTr), the groundbreaking of the MRP-TDD, due to the bidding and ODA funding process, “may commence within the first quarter of 2020 and could be partially operated in February 2022.”

“As discussed during a project coordinating meeting, it is very likely that the design and build contract can be awarded around the end of January 2020,” Eymard Eje, DOTr Assistant Secretary for project implementation-Mindanao cluster, told MindaNews.

In an email, Eje said they expected the ODA loan agreement with China to be signed by March or April 2020.

Citing the bid document as of August, Eje said the winning contractor is required to partially operate (PO) the MRP-TDD segment 24 months after the notice to proceed is granted.

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Design changes

Based on the original feasibility study, which the NEDA commissioned to a local joint venture composed of Schema Konsults, Inc., Engineering & Development Corporation of the Philippines, and Pacific Rim Innovation & Management Exponents, Inc., the MRP-TDD segment would be constructed as a single-rail track and diesel-run train.

A study conducted by consultants of the Asian Development Bank in 2018 increased the cost to P80 billion with the upgrading to a modern dual track, electricity-run railway and due to additional structures such as viaducts and bridges.

Eje added that after further evaluation by the Arup Ove & Partners Hongkong Ltd., the cost was pegged at about P83 billion, which the ICC-Cabcom approved.

The higher cost was due to further changes in the civil and structural work for the slopes and embankments and the incremental cost on fixed items such as engineering, project management consultants and project management teams, he explained.

Chinese contractors

With China funding the MRP-TDD, it will also have the power to recommend the developers to join the bidding.

Eje identified the state-owned Chinese firms that so far signified interest to construct the MRP-TDD as the China Railway International Group (CRIG) and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC).

CRIG is a subsidiary of China Railway Group Ltd., one of the Fortune 500 Global Companies, according to its website. China Railway’s core business is constructing railway infrastructure at home and abroad.

On the other hand, the CCECC, from being an international railway contractor, has expanded to project contracting, civil engineering design and consultancy, labor services cooperation, real estate development, and import and export trading as well. It has projects in over 50 countries in Asia, Africa, America and Oceania.

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He added that for this segment, the road right of way acquisition will affect some 1,900 landowners.

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Li said that tapping Chinese firms as potential developers forms part of the “package of agreement” that will go with the loans or donations Beijing would extend to Mindanao.

But he was quick to say that the Philippine government “could choose non-Chinese firms if it thinks they are better than Chinese companies.”

Li described the Mindanao railway “as one of the major cooperation projects between China and the Philippines,” following Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Manila last November.

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Incumbent MinDA Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said “the bidding for the MRP-TDD is slated this November” and the groundbreaking and construction early next year.

“A group of Chinese engineering consultants is now preparing the ground work for the succeeding phases of the railway system,” he said in a recent Facebook post.

The MRP-TDD is just the first phase of the 2,000-km railroad that the government plans to establish across the island.

Barring any more delays, Eje, the assistant secretary at DOTr, which is spearheading the Mindanao Railway Project, said the partial operation of the MRP-TDD “would happen in February 2022.”

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