The Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) hosted the Mindanao Speaks Up forum on the 10th of February, 2021. This forum was designed to foster public discussions about what more could be done in the final 18 months of the Duterte administration to advance its "Build, Build, Build" program. In the weeks ahead of the event, MinDA published infographics like the following:

Given the Mindanao Railway's status as a flagship project for the administration, it was no surprise that the railway had its own time slot at the forum. During this session, Atty. Clipton Solamo shared an updated construction timeline that showed completion of right-of-way acquisition efforts by September 2021, and only partial operation by 2022.

Atty. Solamo also highlighted the separation of of the Project Management Consultancy (PMC) project from the Design & Build (D&B) project. By the time of the forum, the DOTr was still waiting for China's nominees for the D&B contractors. The bid conference for the PMC project had already been completed in Januar y the 4th, and the DOTr was merely awaiting the official results of its Bids & Awards Committee (BAC).

Later in the session, Niel Bonto updated attendees on the status on Phase 2 of the railway. The next phase would connect the Davao Region with General Santos City and Marbel. Negotiations with China had been proceeding quietly for months, and by July 2020, terms of reference for the conduct of the feasibility study had already been drafted. The DOTr was simply awaiting confirmation of the start of the study by a Chinese contractor.

In addition to the progress updates from the various agencies, the forum was notable for its Question & Answer. Anyone who was able to attend the forum was free to post questions. Mindanao Railway Watchers was present, and forwarded questions that had been collected from the community.

https://www.facebook.com/MinDAgovphOfficial/videos/907987793304170/

An index of railway related questions -- which were all ℅ of our community -- are listed below.

Time index

Description

4:51:04

The question sought clarification about the following budgetary allocations and were actually released. 

The DBM representative was only able to confirm that these funds had indeed been released since 2018.

MindaRW, thus far, had not been able to locate corresponding release orders on the Department of Budget & Management (DBM) website. However, this may very well be because these releases were part of batched fund releases that did not itemize the allocations -- which are indeed plentiful on the site. 

4:58:44

In the Jakarta-Badung railway in Indonesia, there were reports in the Indonesian press about China's reticence to release funds till issues related to the right-of-way were resolved. This question sought clarification about whether or not such considerations were also at work in the Mindanao Railway given that right-of-way acquisition for it was still in-progress.

Atty. Clipton Solamo clarified that the Chinese embassy had not informed the DOTr that completion of the right-of-way acquisition was a pre-requisite for starting the project.

4:59:25

This question sought clarification about the correlation between Offers To Buy (OTB) and the progress of property appraisals, as implied by the Mindanao Railway Project Office in their communication to property owners who sought updates about their OTBs.

   

On this point, all that Atty Clipton Solano would say was that appraisals were are still ongoing, and that OTBs will be issued to all affected owners at the proper time.

Note: Because of the way that Sec. Pinol asked the question, Atty Solano's answer was actually intertwined with the next question.

4:49:58

This question sought insights into why only property owners in Davao del Norte, and the north of Davao City, had actually received Notices of Taking (NOT). Property owners in Toril, for example, had already had their properties tagged, but still had not received their NOTs.

Sec. Pinol asked this question together with the previous question about Offer To Buy (OTB). Atty Clipton Solamo, therefore, answered both questions together.

Atty Solano explained that the MRPO was processing NOTs, appraisals, and OTBs in batches. Rather than completing all NOTs first, then proceeding to appraisals, and so on, they were actually working to complete the individual processes before proceeding. Unfortunately, he did not provide additional details beyond that.

The implication of the state, however, is that there may have indeed been property owners in Davao del Norte who are further along in the process than those in Davao City and further south.

5:01:29

This question was for the benefit of Pag-IBIG fund borrowers who are affected by the Mindanao Railway. Secretary Manny Pinol, unfortunately, but did not receive an adequate reply from the panelists. Secretary Pinol directed his staff to reach out to the relevant agencies for an answer. 

On the 12th of February, Mindanao Railway Watchers sent a follow up email to MinDA on this matter, and offered the following summary to expedite the query.

 

Over all, the forum was successful. While the speakers did not appear to be prepared for the format that the organizers envisioned, and were not able to answers all questions to the depth that the inquirers sought -- especially for the Mindanao Railway -- it did not detract from the fact that the event gave individual Mindanaoans an opportunity to ask questions directly and get some answers. 

MANY THANKS to the organizers for accommodating this community's questions.

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