PH may sign Mindanao railway loan with China during Duterte-Xi meet – Pernia

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President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 23)— The Philippines could secure a formal loan deal for the Mindanao Railway project when President Rodrigo Duterte visits China next week.

Secretary Ernesto Pernia of the National Economic and Development Authority said Friday Duterte's upcoming bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping could yield another official development assistance (ODA) for the country.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade announced last year that Philippine officials are engaged in government-to-government talks with their Chinese counterparts after China said it was willing to finance the first phase of the Mindanao Railway.

This involves a 100-kilometer train line linking Tagum, Davao City, and Digos City, which should cut travel time from 3.5 hours to a little over an hour.

"That's one of the near-construction already, so it's possible it will be signed," Pernia said in an interview with CNN Philippines.

Duterte will be heading to China from August 28 to September 1.

The ₱82.9-billion train project was supposed to be fully funded by the government's budget and was targeted to be completed by 2021.

If realized, it would be the first-ever train system in Mindanao. It was among the campaign promises of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Pernia added that other projects previously tagged for China funding, including the Subic-Clark Railway and the Davao City Expressway, may also be discussed or signed soon.

The Cabinet official added that they are "more guarded" in signing loan deals with China, especially now that processing has been "slow" relative to ODA -funded projects of Japan.

Two big-ticket projects are covered by Chinese ODA: the Chico River Dam Project that will supply irrigation in northern Luzon, and the Kaliwa Dam project that will serve as a new water source. Of the two, only the Chico River project has moved forward.

There are 75 flagship infrastructure projects under the "Build, Build, Build" program of the Duterte administration. Pernia said he expects at least 22 projects finished before the President steps down in 2022.