Lobregat files Mindanao Railroad Bill in Congress PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 11 July 2016 13:40

By DEXTER YAP

Congressman Celso Lobregat has filed House Bill No.123 creating the Mindanao Railways Corporation, prescribing its powers, functions and duties, and providing the necessary funds for its creation.

The bill was re-filed by Lobregat in the 17th Congress, as it was originally filed during the 16th Congress as Senate Bill No.3095, House Bill 3055, House Bill No. 5736, by Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, Representatives Rufus and Maximo Rodriguez and Mark Villar.

The bill was filed by Congressman Lobregat on June 30 at 1:30 p.m.making it the 123rd bill filed in the 17th Congress.

Based on the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) for the conduct of feasibility study of the Mindanao Railway Project (MRP), the proposed MRP is supportive of the thrusts of the updated 2011-2016 Philippine Development Plan (PDP)., specifically under Chapter 10 (Accelerating Infrastructure Development).

Lobregat, quoting the TOR,  said the major shortcoming of transportation is the lack of integrated and coordinated transport network. Global assessments of the country’s transport infrastructure network indicate that its quality and capacity remain low.

One of the major problems that results in disparities in the transport network is the lack of integration between the local and national government plans and programs/projects, which contributes to the low capacity and quality of infrastructure facilities.

Lobregat revealed that before the House Bill was filed in congress, he had personally communicated with Senator Koko Pimentel, the author of Senate Bill No.3095 and informed him of his intention to adopt the said bill with amendments and file it in the House of Representatives.

Pimentel in return was very happy on this development and told Lobregat that it’s a good start.

The TOR also revealed and stated in the explanatory note of House Bill 123 that  Mindanao shares the same restraints in transport infrastructure improvements, a fast, safe, reliable, efficient, convenient, dependable, environment-friendly and alternative mode of transport will provide the people of Mindanao the benefits of reduced travel time and increased opportunities for economic activities improving physical connectivity within the entire Mindanao region.

The proposed MRP will enhance interconnectivity and linkages thru passenger and freight railway transport development and will further boost tourism, trade and commerce in Mindanao.

The proposed railway transport service will play a major role towards improvement of Mindanao’s intra-island accessibility, linkages and seamless multimodal transport network.

“A railroad network crisscrossing Mindanao will considerably shorten the travel time between my hometown Zamboanga City and Cagayan de Oro, or Davao and Cagayan de Oro as well,” Lobregat stressed.

The veteran legislator expressed hope and optimism that the Mindanao Railway System will take off under the Duterte administration as it is one of the mentioned flagship projects of the new president during his campaign and the fact that Senator Pimentel, the author of the railway corporation in the senate is the incoming Senate President and Representative Mark Villar, another author, will be the incoming DPWH Secretary.

In the explanatory note, it is stated that Mindanao is strategically located and has potential as major transshipment point and center of trade in the Brunei-Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth (BIMP-EAGA) region.

The development of MRP has long been planned but never realized. Mindanao is the second largest island group with an area of 106,000 square kilometers and has a 22-million population with an annual population growth rate of 1.9 percent from year 2000-2010.

The proposed MRP will compliment programs/ projects that will address the lingering problem on poor quality of roads and incomplete road networks in some parts of Mindanao.

The collective experience of Japan, Canada, the United States and most of Europe shows how railroad networks have spurred and sped up the national development. In these nations, railroads opened up vast land areas for human settlement and made it possible to transport tremendous number of people and huge volume of goods at the lowest cost. – Dexter Yap