China funding for rail project seen
China is expected to dangle a “good” offer to finance the proposed 2,000-kilometer Mindanao railway, which the government aims to roll out within the term of President Duterte, Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno said yesterday.
Diokno told reporters that the government would finance from the budget as well as seek official development assistance (ODA) for a number of infrastructure projects in a bid to lure more investors to the country.
“We are investing in infrastructure; we need it. [Our poor infrastructure is] a big turn off for investors,” Diokno pointed out.
He said the government would spend up to P8 trillion in huge infrastructure projects over the next six years, including a new railway that would connect Tutuban in Manila to Matnog, Sorsogon, as well as a high-speed rail from Clark to Manila.
Bridges will also be built to connect Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, specifically Sorsogon and Samar as well as Leyte and Surigao, Diokno added.
To ease traffic in Metro Manila, Diokno said Public Works Secretary Mark Villar was looking to build 13 new bridges across the Pasig River. “These will not just be bridges; they will be designed to be iconic like those in London and Paris,” he said.
As for the Mindanao railway, the budget chief said economic managers last month in Beijing presented the project to Chinese officials, who expressed interest in the first segment of abut 1,200 kilometers.
Work on the first phase of the Mindanao railway from Davao to Cagayan de Oro City is expected to start this year.
The National Economic and Development Authority earlier said that the proposed P128.1-billion Mindanao railway project would link the island’s growth centers through the construction of modern railroad tracks, operation of state-of-the-art rolling stocks and the construction of terminals in strategic areas where trading posts would also be established.
The railway system, which as of late last year was undergoing detailed feasibility study, would traverse a series of cities and provinces to form a Mindanao-wide rail network and link itself to major ports and other gateways on the island, according to Neda.
Without disclosing details, Diokno said he believed that the Chinese government “will be giving us a good financing offer.” Top-level Chinese officials will be in Manila on Feb. 23 to 24, during which they are expected to firm up financing commitments for big-ticket infrastructure projects in the Philippines.
Also being pitched as priorities for Chinese financing are the $3.01-billion south line of the North-South Railway as well as the $374.03-million New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa dam project in Quezon province.
Besides the railway and dam projects, the $53.6-million Chico River pump irrigation project in Cagayan and Kalinga provinces will also undergo China’s loan application process as these three projects were already given the go-ahead by the National Economic and Development Authority Board chaired by President Duterte and the Investment Coordination Committee.
In all, economic managers presented to officials in China a total of 40 “small and large” infrastructure projects for possible financing during their recent two-day mission.