DOTr assures no delays, corruption on Mindanao Railway Project

MANILAThe Department of Transportation (DOTr) assures the public that it will implement the Mindanao Railway Project without delays and corruption.

The department made this statement as it expressed support to the decision of President Rodrigo R. Duterte to sack Assistant Secretary Mark Tolentino due to questionable dealings and involving members of the First Family with matters regarding the railway project.

We assure the public that the Mindanao Railway Project will be done with no corruption, in accordance with rightful processes and no delays while ensuring its quality, DOTr Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John Batan said during a press conference Monday.

The DOTr official reiterated that the department will not derail the construction of the railway project.

It is not true that we are derailing the Mindanao Railway; we are on track and it is set to be operational by 2021, Batan said.

He said that Tolentino decided to push through with his press briefing last Friday despite appeals to defer it amid ongoing discussions on whether to finance Phase 1 of Mindanao Railway from China's Official Development Assistance (ODA).

During the said press briefing, the former assistant secretary alleged that senior officials of the department are delaying the Mindanao Railway project for it to be funded through a loan from the Chinese government despite a PHP36 billion budget allocation through the General Appropriations Act.

Tolentino said that he is only accountable to the President and that he has the blessings of the First Family.

Hindi ko alam ang pinatutunguhan ni former Asec Mark. Di po natin alam kung sino yung member ng First Family na nagbigay sa kanya ngblessings.

(We don't know what former Asec. Mark is driving at? We don't know who among the members of the First Family gave him blessings), Batan said.

The President has always stressed that no contracts go through MalacaAang, he added.

In an earlier statement, the DOTr said that the Mindanao Railway Project was approved by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Board in June last year after it was first funded in 1957.

The DOTr, even before Asec. Tolentino's appointment, already achieved what has not been done in the last six decadesto go beyond repeated studies, to get investment approval, and to swiftly advance the design process for Phase 1 of the Mindanao Railway, according to the DOTr.

The first phase of the Mindanao Railway Project involves the construction of a 105 kilometer Tagum-Davao-Digos segment, which is expected to reduce travel time from Tagum City, Davao del Norte to Digos City, Davao del Sur from three and a half hours to one hour and 20 minutes once it is completed in 2021.

The proposed 2,000-kilometer railway project is envisioned to connect key Mindanao cities including Davao, Zamboanga, Butuan, Surigao, Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, and General Santos to spur economic development in the region. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency