Senator Sonny Angara hailed the Duterte administration for approving the P35.26-billion Phase 1 of the Mindanao Railway Project (MRP), saying this would definitely be a “dream come true” for Mindanaoans who have long been clamoring for a transport system that would allow the island’s urban centers and growth corridors to be linked by rail.
“Rail is the locomotive that will drive Mindanao’s project. It is also a driver for peace because as communities become interconnected, economies are linked, growth spreads, and travel brings cultural exchanges,” Angara pointed out.
The veteran legisltor said the Davao phase of the Mindanao Railway project, which is expected to begin construction in the first quarter of 2018 and anticipated to be finished by 2022, involves the establishment of a 102.28-kilometer commuter railway from Tagum City in Davao del Norte to Digos City in Davao del Sur.
“I hope that the train service will be capable of ferrying not just people but cargo as well as the island is an agriculture powerhouse producing, by last count, at least P500 billion worth of farm products a year,” said the the seasoned lawmaker, who since he was a congressman had been pushing for the creation of a Mindanao Railways Corporation.
The youthful senator noted that based on recent figures from the government, Mindanao accounts for almost half of the country’s total corn output, around 83 percent of the total banana production, around 61 percent of total harvested coconut, around 90 percent of total pineapple yield, around 67 percent of commercial fisheries catch, and almost 36 percent of the total cattle inventory.
“Yet despite posting a GDP of P1.87 trillion, Mindanao’s 21.9 million people account for almost 40 percent of those belonging below the poverty line,” the chairman of the Senate ways and means lamented, adding:
“A train system can be a ticket out of poverty for many of them. Cheap, reliable and fast movement of goods would increase incomes and value to products.”
Angara said that a railway system is not a novel undertaking in the Philippines. At its peak, the country’s railway system stretched for 1.140 kilometres in the islands of Luzon, Panay and Cebu.
“We trust that the government will be able to complete the long-stalled and long-overdue Mindanao Railway System. This is the best time to make it happen as it will make a big lift to the economy of Mindanao,” he added.