A war-torn area infested with rebels, crimes, and poverty—that’s how most Filipinos see the island of Mindanao. Thanks to the media and their sometimes over-exaggerated news reporting, our homeland is shunned by foreigners and even investors. Comparing it to Luzon and Visayas, progress in Mindanao is really slow and minimal. But all these things are about to change now that the president of the Philippines is a true-blue Mindanaoan.
The moment that President Duterte was inaugurated as the country’s 16th president, it was clear that the progress in Mindanao is one of his priorities. As a matter of fact, during his first SONA (State of the National Address), he has shared one of his projects in Mindanao—the Mindanao Rail Project.
Although this might be the first time that the younger generation might have heard of this proposal, the Mindanao Railway System (MRS) Project has actually been pushed by Mindanaoan lawmakers as early as the 1990s.
The Mindanao Railway System Project was first conceptualized during the term of then President Fidel V. Ramos in 1992 (which was already more than two decades ago). The project was supposed to cover approximately 2,000 kilometers of railway that will connect the major cities of Mindanao and would cost around PHP 78 billion.
The Mindanao Railway System was actually the brainchild of then Abante Mindanao party-list Rep. Maximo Rodriguez Jr. and Cagayan de Oro City representative Rufus Rodriguez who later filed House Bill 3055, which proposed the creation of the Mindanao Railways Corporation.
Under the proposed bill of the Rodriguez brothers, the Mindanao Railways Corporation would be the one to own and operate the tramways, railways, and other land transportation, pipelines, and vessels, for the purpose of transporting passengers, goods, properly from any point around the island of Mindanao.
According to Rufus Rodriguez, what urged him and his brother to file the bill was the experience of Canada, Japan, and most of the Europe, wherein the construction of railroad networks have helped improve economic development. Rodriguez has stated that railroads have made it possible in these nations to transport huge volume of products and goods at a much lower cost.
It was also stated under the bill that the Mindanao Railways Corporation will have the power to operate and own hotels, powerhouses, terminals, restaurants, warehouses, coal mines, equipment and other properties that are connected in constructing and operating the railways.
Unfortunately, after several feasibility studies conducted under the administrations of Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo, and Aquino, nothing materialized. During Arroyo’s term, she promised that the project would become a reality during her administration but no progress ever occurred. And during the time of Aquino, all MRS project offices situated in Iligan City and Cagayan de Oro City were closed.
As of July 26, 2016, it has already been reported by Transportation Department spokesperson Cherie Mercado during a news briefing that the Mindanao Rail Project (including the Cebu Transit System, Davao Transit System, Panay Railways Project, and the North and South Luzon Railways (note: all of these are mentioned during President Duterte’s 1st SONA), is already being studied. Mercado added that their office in now open for proposals coming from the private sectors. All these mentioned projects will be funded under the public private partnership or unsolicited proposal.
The railway network in Mindanao is said to be implemented in phases. The Phase 1 of the project includes a 124-km rail line from Cagayan de Oro City and Iligan City and would traverse the coastal municipalities of Opol, El Salvador, Alubijid, Laguindingan, Gitagum, Libertad, Initao, Naawan, Manticao, and Lugait.
With the whole island of Mindanao being one of the country’s major contributors of agricultural crops such as rice and corn, having a railway transport would certainly help Mindanaoan farmers greatly. With trains being considered as the most dependable mode of transport since they are the least affected by bad weather conditions such as rain and fog, farmers will no longer worry that the delivery of their goods will be delayed. This will assure buyers also that the goods they will receive from farmers are fresh and of good quality all the time.
Apart from the proposed Mindanao Railway Project, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade has also said that the administration of Duterte is also planning to create a railway system that would connect Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City and Clark International Airport in Pampanga. The aim of the proposed rail system is to make Clark International Airport as an alternate international gateway since NAIA is already congested and is heavily affecting passengers due to the abysmal traffic conditions plaguing the area.
What do you think about this proposed Mindanao Railway Project? Do you think that it will really improve the economic standing of Mindanao? Share with us your thoughts!