THE TRANSPORTATION department on Thursday told the Senate Committee on Finance that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) did not approve its proposed budget for the implementation of the Mindanao Railway Project in 2022.

“Unfortunately, the DBM did not approve it, and we intend to request that the project be given a budget,” Transportation Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John R. Batan, speaking in mixed English and Filipino, told the committee during a budget hearing.

Transportation Assistant Secretary Goddes Hope O. Libiran said in a phone message that the project will need P2 billion next year.

Sought for comment, DBM Officer-in-Charge and Undersecretary Tina Rose Marie L. Canda said in a phone message: “ROW pa lang (It is still in the right-of-way acquisition phase). Slow moving ito eh.”

“Also, if DoTr (Department of Transportation) thinks this project is a priority, it could have reallocated an amount for this project,” she added.

To be funded by a loan from China, the Mindanao rail project was initially expected to start partial operations in March 2022 and full operations in June 2023.

In the revised “indicative” timeline provided by the Transportation department on Sept. 13, construction work is now expected to start in April 2022.

The department, now eyeing to start partial operations in Oct. 2022 and full operations in Oct. 2023, is still waiting for the shortlist of bidders from China for the design-and-build contract of the project.

The House of Representatives plenary approved on Wednesday the department’s proposed P151.34-billion budget for 2022.

In the budget proposal, the railway sector is allotted the biggest portion or 98% of the total infrastructure budget.

The department’s infrastructure projects get an 88% share of the total capital outlays budget.

Meanwhile, the department also announced on Thursday that a Spain-based company is set to sign the contract agreement for the detailed architectural and engineering design of the Metro Rail Transit Line 4 (MRT-4).

The project, which is funded by an official development assistance from the Asian Development Bank, aims to connect parts of eastern Metro Manila with the province of Rizal.

“IDOM Consulting Engineering, Architecture, SA, as the detailed architectural and engineering design consultant (DEDC) will prepare the project’s preliminary design, detailed engineering and tender designs, the loan processing documents, financial and economical assessments, the project/loan safeguards documents, and bidding documents for the MRT-4 project,” the department said in a statement. — Arjay L. Balinbin

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