DOTr eyes Chinese loans to fund whole stretch of Mindanao railway project
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) is now considering loans from China to fund the entire Mindanao Railway project, an official said on Saturday.
DOTr Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John Batan said discussions have been ongoing among the economic managers and between the Philippines and China on the possibility that the Phase 1 of the railway project be financed also by Beijing.
The National Economic and Development Authority Board, chaired by President Rodrigo Duterte and the highest body tasked to approve huge infrastructure projects in the country, initially approved that the 105-kilometer Phase 1 of the project, amounting to about P36 billion, be funded by the national government.
Batan said there will be a meeting between Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua regarding the railway project.
He said the ongoing multi-agency and government-to-government discussions are aimed at evaluating whether to finance Phase 1 of Mindanao Railway with Official Development Assistance (ODA) from China.
Since China already expressed intent to finance the future phases of Mindanao Railway, there is concern that if Phase 1 is not implemented by China, it will be more difficult to get China's support for the much longer future phases of the Mindanao Railway Project, he added.
"Discussions are ongoing among the economic managers and between two governments on how to best ensure that the entire Mindanao Railway is built (not just a small part of it), and at the same time ensuring fast completion. What we are working on building is as much as 1,500-km. of railways in Mindanao. We cannot afford to be short-sighted, especially when the objective is that big," Batan explained.
Batan disclosed about the plan to tap China for the entire railway project following a press conference held on Friday by DOTr Assistant Secretary for Railway Mark Tolentino accusing some department officials of trying to derail the implementation of the project.
Tolentino, without the permission of his superiors, held the press briefing, accused the unnamed DOTr officials of their supposed personal interest for delaying the project even if there was already an approved budget for its first phase.
The Phase 1 of the project, which construction is set to start this year, is expected to reduce the travel time from Davao del Norte to Davaol del Sur from 3.5 hours to 1.3 hours. It will connect Tagum, Carmen, Panabo, Mudiang, Davao Terminal, Toril, Sta. Cruz, and Digos. Celerina Monte/DMS