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Davao City mayor to plan 'simple commuter railway system'
Hernani P. De Leon, Mindanao Bureau Chief, BusinessWorld (9 Aug 2004)

DAVAO CITY, PHILIPPINES: The city government is seriously looking at a "simple railway commuter system," which could be developed before the end of the decade.

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said the Davao City was planning a commuter system patterned after small train-based systems in Taiwan's regional centers, which he said could even be cheaper than building a coastal road.

Mr. Duterte noted, however, that there were no estimates yet and that all the city government could do now was to start planning for such project.

"We're not thinking of sophisticated commuter railway systems and heavy infrastructure similar to those in Metro Manila but simple ones like what I saw in Taiwan during my last visit there," he said.

The mayor explained that the railway project, should it push through, would have lesser land to expropriate and thus, would have reduced court work for the government.

A coastal highway has been discussed for the city since 10 years ago to connect the northern and southern fringes where industries are attracting a big number of commuters during rush hours. The city has over 1.4 million population, the largest for any city outside Metro Manila, distributed to over 2,400 square kilometers of land.

Two years ago, initial estimates placed billions of pesos could be spent on a coastal highway depending on how long it would be although city engineers said it could range from 20 to 40 kilometers north and south of the city proper. The bigger problem aside from funding, they said, was years of delay since thousands of families, including those with homes on titled properties, would be affected.

Mr. Duterte said he was not promising the railway system to residents during his term.

"All I have is another three years and it might take another six or seven years for it to be realized," he said noting that what he could do in the meantime was ask the city planners to seriously look into it.

JAPANESE RECOMMENDED

It would be recalled that the railway commuter system plan for Davao City was recommended by Japanese consultants to the Regional Development Council as early as 1997 through the Japan-assisted Davao Integrated Development Program. Based on that plan, the railway system should start development before the end of this decade.

Davao's current city administrator, Wendel Avisado, and planning chief, Mario Luis Jacinto, supervised the Japan-funded integrated development plan under regional council chairman Jesus Ayala, former adviser on Mindanao affairs for President Corazon C. Aquino in the late 1980s and a consistent supporter of Mr. Duterte.

Even transport consultants of the Growth with Equity in Mindanao program, a United States Agency for International Development-funded initiative, has endorsed a railway-based commuter system for Davao.

In a previous interview with BusinessWorld, consultants of the US-funded program said it would be good if the local government could look into that project now before the transport situation and squatting in the city's coastal areas get worse.

While the same consultants noted a Davao railway system could work, they noted though that economic studies on the Mindanao railway system indicated it would not work due to limited volume of cargoes and passengers on the island as well as the relatively short-distance routes to be served.

A railway system, it was underscored, would only be efficient when there is big commuter demand for short routes and enough cargoes for long-haul routes.

Copyright © 2004 BusinessWorld Online, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

http://bworldonline.com/current/TheNation/nationstory3.html

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