By Ali G. Macabalang
Government officials in Mindanao will hold a virtual forum next month to address long-delayed vital infrastructure projects for possible implementation or completion as the Duterte regime comes to final 18-month dispensation.
Set for discussion in the February 10 virtual meeting are issues concerning delays in the implementation of essential projects, including the snail-paced Marawi Rehabilitation Program and the unimplemented Mindanao Railway System plan, according to organizers led by the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA).
In a statement, MinDA Chairman Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol said he and Philippine Export Processing Zone Authority (PEZA) Director-General Charito Plaza had initiated preparatory arrangements last year for the conduct of the event, dubbed “Mindanao Speaks Up Forum.”
Sec. Pinol said that in the initial forum planning stages, he underscored the “need to review the implementation of the commitments of the administration for the development of Mindanao under the first-ever Mindanaoan President.”
“I have pointed out that just like in the past, Mindanao has again been relegated to a poor third in the sharing of the country’s budget resources,’ he said.
Piñol said the Feb. 10 forum will serve as a straight-forward reminder to incumbent officials on the commitments of the Duterte administration to fully develop Mindanao’s potentials.
Forum inputs will be included in the administration’s “last budget for 2022” being prepared by different government agencies as originally endorsed by Regional Development Councils, local government units and various sectors, he said.
“As one of the original campaigners and supporters of President Duterte, I emphasized that his legacy should include a fully developed Mindanao which is the undisputed food production region of the country,” he averred.
He said Agusan del Norte Gov. Dale Corvera, chairman of the Mindanao Regional Development Councils’ Executive Committee, will present the inputs gathered through a series of consultations since last year.
Other government officials, including Cabinet secretaries from Mindanao, will join the said forum to address concerns that will be raised by Mindanao stakeholders, he added.
“Among the flagship projects which have yet to be completed or even started are the Marawi Rehabilitation Program, the Mindanao Railway Project, and the Davao City-Samal Bridge,” he said.
Of the three major projects, Piñol said, the Mindanao Railway Project has raised great expectations from the people of the region as it promises convenient and easy movement of people and goods.
He said such project “has not only suffered delays but also revision in the design,” disclosing that MinDA endorsed a two-rail electric train system that was approved as a monorail locomotive system.
He said the Tagum City-Digos City section of the project was supposed to have undergone bidding in November last year “but this has not happened until today.”
Based on a Department of Transportation (DOTr) recent report, the bidding will be done by summer – which he said is posing a danger that it may not be started before the end of the term of the President.
Piñol cited another sort of misgiving the decrease to 12 percent of Mindanao’s budget share in 2021 from last year’s 16 percent of the national budget. AGM