Solon eyes Mindanao Railway project probe

To promote transparency, fairness and equity, Davao City First District Representative Paolo Duterte has filed a resolution directing concerned House committees to urgently conduct an investigation, in aid of legislation, on the Mindanao Railway Project of the Department of Transportation on the manner of its locational and property identification as well as manner of acquisition of right-of-way, including expropriation of affected properties.

House Resolution 286, co-authored by Benguet Representative Eric Yap, states that the inquiry and investigation will be in aid of legislation in order to revisit existing laws and rules on the manner of identifying the appropriate locations and/or areas of the MRP in addition to concerns of proper acquisition of the right-of-way and expropriation of private properties affected by government works, infrastructure, and other projects and to strengthen the same or come up with new and better mechanisms to ensure that all affected stakeholders from the public or private sector are adequately compensated and protected by applicable laws and rules.

“A similar resolution has already been filed during the 18th Congress and this is now being filed with the same intent to ensure transparency and accountability of the use of public funds while always keeping in mind the safety and welfare of the general populace in the delivery of public services,” Duterte said.

The MRP – through the DoTr — is the first rail system outside Luzon covering 1,530-kilometer circumferential and spur rail lines that would connect the Davao provinces, Iligan City, Cagayan de Oro City, General Santos City and Zamboanga.

The Phase 1 of the railway project, is a 105-kilometer line that is expected to reduce travel time from Davao del Norte to Davao del Sur from 3.5 hours to just 1.3 hours. It will have eight stations — Tagum, Carmen, Panabo, Mudiang, Davao Terminal, Toril, Sta. Cruz, and Digos.

The three-segment railway is expected to not only make travel faster, but also safer, more convenient and comfortable for passengers, with a 10-hectare depot in Tagum.

When completed, the DoTr expects the daily ridership of the Tagum-Davao-Digos segment to increase to 134,060 this year, to 237,023 by 2032 and 375,134 by 2042.

Duterte said that recently they received reports of important concerns about the railway project.

“It has come to our attention through various reports from local communities affected that there are variations in the offers for acquisition of right-of-way or expropriation of the private properties by the DoTr and/or its contractors, sub-contractors, or other service providers and these variations have substantial discrepancies from the actual Zonal Value or Fair Market Value of the properties affected,” Duterte said.

He added that reports also revealed that the MRP would traverse densely populated areas, particularly in Davao City, without the appropriate geological surveys or proper public consultation with the affected communities and many residents in those areas also opposed the project raising safety and health concerns, including noise pollution.

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