DAVAO CITY — Mindanao’s business sector is poised to rally for the long-standing Mindanao Railway System proposal now that Senator Juan Miguel F. Zubiri has filed a bill seeking to create the Mindanao Railways Authority (MRA).
“Now we can start to rally for the funding and completion of this project. The railway will bring down our logistics cost for goods produced in Mindanao,” Mindanao Business Council (MBC) Chair Vicente T. Lao told the media yesterday.

The bill filed by Mr. Zubiri proposes “a national government agency attached to the Office of the President to be distinct and separate from the Philippine National Railways whose scope and coverage as provided in Republic Act No. 4156 is proposed to be amended.”

Section 4 of the bill indicates that the MRA “shall be primarily responsible for the construction, operation and maintenance of a railway transportation system in Mindanao. It shall have its main office in the City of Davao, and shall have such branches and agencies within or outside the Philippines as may be necessary for the proper conduct of its business.”

The Davao Regional Development Council (RDC) also expressed confidence that the envisioned railway system will push through under the administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, the country’s first president from Mindanao.

“Mindanao railway has always been a priority and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has set aside funds for the conduct of a feasibility study for the Mindanao Railway System,” NEDA Davao Region Director Ma. Lourdes D. Lim said.

Ms. Lim, vice-chair of the RDC, said she has received information that an unsolicited proposal for a Light Rail Train has been submitted and endorsed to the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Center for evaluation.

Mr. Duterte earlier said the construction of a railway system that will link the capital Metro Manila not only to different parts of Luzon but also to Mindanao in the south will be included in his administration’s big ticket projects.

However, Mr. Duterte hinted that the railway project would likely be considered under a bilateral partnership with another country instead of the PPP scheme.

“PPP is too contentious. What I want is to do the project with direct assistance from another country, but we have to ask if there is a payback,” Mr. Duterte said. — Carmencita A Carillo