Expropriation on the table to meet Mindanao Railway launch target

By Arjay L. Balinbin, Senior Reporter

THE DEPARTMENT of Transportation (DoTr) said Thursday that its October 2022 target to achieve partial operations for the China-funded Mindanao Railway Project is still “achievable” despite delays posed by right-of-way (ROW) acquisition, adding that expropriation of land remains an option to expedite the process.

In response to a BusinessWorld query, DoTr-Mindanao Railway Project Manager Clipton J. Solamo said in a Viber message: “Based on our current pace, partial operation by October 2022 is achievable.”

He said some of the steps being undertaken “to hasten” the ROW acquisition include: “Streamlining of site validation activities and review of documents; further digitalization of programs; institution of a local inter-agency committee for the relocation and resettlement of informal settler families; continuous coordination meetings between partner local government units and other stakeholders; and advancement of the organizational structure by requesting additional manpower.”

The department will resort to “expropriation of property” when necessary, Mr. Solamo noted, citing the Right-of-Way Act.

“If the property owner does not accept the price offer, the implementing agency shall initiate expropriation proceedings.”

“The property owner is given 30 days to decide whether or not to accept the offer as payment for his/her property. Upon refusal or failure of the property owner to accept such offer or fails and/or refuses to submit the documents necessary for payment, the implementing agency shall immediately initiate expropriation proceedings,” Mr. Solamo also said.

At a budget hearing last week, the Senate sub-finance committee chaired by Senator Mary Grace Natividad S. Poe-Llamanzares questioned the zero funding for the project in the Transportation department’s proposed budget for 2022.

Transportation Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John R. Batan said the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) did not include the DoTr’s proposed budget for the project in the National Expenditure Program for next year.

DBM Officer-in-Charge and Undersecretary Tina Rose Marie L. Canda said the project is “slow moving” and is still in the ROW acquisition phase.

The department will need P2 billion for “advance payment and progress payments” for the P3.08-billion project management consultancy contract awarded to a consortium composed of China Railway Design Corp. and Guangzhou Wanan Construction Supervision Co., Ltd., according to Transportation Assistant Secretary Goddes Hope O. Libiran.

Transportation Assistant Secretary for Project Implementation-Mindanao Cluster Eymard D. Eje said the department will work with the House of Representatives “on the amendment of our budget.”