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President Marcos: Look for new fund source for Mindanao railway

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
President Marcos: Look for new fund source for Mindanao railway
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr
Bongbong Marcos / Facebook Page

Contracts for ADB-funded Davao bus project signed

MANILA, Philippines — President Marcos yesterday ordered the transportation and finance departments to look for funds for the Tagum-Davao-Digos railway, a project that has been stalled after the government decided to no longer tap Chinese loans for its financing.

Speaking at the 125th anniversary of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) in Davao City, Marcos said best practices should define the country’s pivot to commuter-friendly transit systems.

“That is why I am ordering the secretary of transportation and the secretary of finance to work in tandem to explore financing sources for the 103-kilometer Tagum-Davao-Digos railway,” Marcos said.

“Thus far, this ambitious project has been stalled by lack of funding, so let us go and hunt for the right funding engine that will pull this project to the finish line,” he added.

Marcos said he has been informed that financing railway models can be creatively packaged in a hybrid way, with each component of the project undertaken and underwritten by different stakeholders. He noted that civil works can be tendered to private investors while rolling stocks can be shouldered by official development assistance, or vice versa.

“There are some examples of ways we can explore different modes of financing to accelerate delivery. Of course, right-of-way is a deliverable entrusted to the government,” the President said.

“I have mentioned these to illustrate one cardinal rule in transportation management, of always being in the driver’s seat of innovation,” he added.

The P83-billion Tagum-Davao-Digos segment of the Mindanao Railway Project was intended to link major cities and economic zones in the area to support economic activity. The previous administration wanted the project to be fully operational in 2021.

Last October, the transportation department revealed that the government would no longer seek Chinese official development assistance to fund the railway project because the negotiations were not moving. The Philippines is looking for other possible ODA partners to bankroll the project, the DOTr said.

Marcos also led the launching of the Davao Public Transport Modernization Project during the DOTr’s anniversary and reaffirmed his commitment to promote development in the Davao region.

According to the Presidential Communications Office, the project is a 672-kilometer bus route network, serving 29 interconnected routes with 400 articulated battery electric buses and more than 500 diesel buses.

It aims to deliver a high-quality bus-based public transportation system to ensure mobility and accessibility for the southern city’s growing population and economy.  Once completed, the transport modernization project is expected to serve 800,000 passengers daily and create around 3,000 jobs. The civil works for the project is projected to start in the third quarter.

“As a catalyst for lifestyle change, it shows by example that there are feasible alternatives to commuting by private vehicles, that these can be left behind at homes, without having to be late for work, for school or for whatever you need to do around and about your places that you live,” Marcos said.

“Once completed, this is certainly, as they call it, a game-changer. This project will become the template for public transport systems in other cities in our country. As a mass transport system, this people mover will provide faster and more comfortable commutes whilst decongesting streets filled with private vehicles, and improve road traffic.”

The President lauded the Manila-based multilateral lender Asian Development Bank for investing in the project.

“Their support will be repaid with work that does not scrimp on the budget, nor cut corners  on workmanship, nor block feedback, nor disregard deadlines,” he said.

Marcos also directed the DOTr to “move at full speed” in modernizing the country’s airports, railways, seaports, roads, transportation hubs, and active mobility structures.

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