In response to the clamor of Mindanaoans and President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement, Senator Sonny Angara has filed a bill creating the state-owned Mindanao Railways Corporation, a move he likened to laying the first administrative track in building a railway in the world’s 10th most populous island.
“Rail is the locomotive that will drive Mindanao’s progress. It is also a driver for peace because as communities become interconnected, economies are linked, growth spreads, and travel brings cultural exchanges,” Angara said.
Angara said the proposed “MindaRail” will have an authorized capital stock of P1 billion, with an 11-person board, all appointed by the President. MindaRail will locate its offices in Davao City.
In Senate Bill 137’s explanatory note, Angara said establishing the MindaRail would allow the island’s urban centers and growth corridors such as the cities of Davao, General Santos, Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Cotabato, Malaybalay to be linked by rail.
He said the train service should be capable of ferrying not just people but cargo as the island is an agriculture powerhouse producing, by last count, half-a-trillion pesos of farm produce a year.
Mindanao accounts for half of the country’s corn output, 83 percent of banana production, 61 percent of harvested coconut, 90 percent of pineapple yield, and 67 percent of commercial fisheries catch, and 36 percent of cattle inventory.
Yet despite posting a GDP of P1.87 trillion, the island’s 21.9 million people account for 40 percent of the country’s poor.
“A train system is the ticket out of poverty for many of them,” Angara said, explaining that cheap, reliable and fast movement of goods would increase incomes and add value to produce.
Angara also noted that the island sits on $310 billion worth of mineral deposits. “It also has vast potentials for clean energy such solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass.”
The senator, who has been filing a bill on MindaRail since his days in the House of Representatives, said a railway system is not a novel undertaking in the country.
At its peak, the Philippine railway system stretched for 1,140 kilometers in the islands of Luzon, Panay and Cebu.
Mindanao has 2,000 kilometers of gravel roads, Angara said. “There are some sectors who argue that money which will be spent for paving these would be better used in building a railway.”
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