Marcos Jr.’s policy shift vs China impacts Mindanao Railway Project—Political Strategist

Marcos Jr.’s policy shift vs China impacts Mindanao Railway Project—Political Strategist

THE dream of establishing a dedicated rail system for the people of Mindanao, connecting the extensive network of the island, has been a long-standing aspiration.

The Mindanao Railway Project has lingered in the government pipeline, eagerly awaited by the people of the Land of Promise.

However, as the Marcos Jr. administration took office, the promising project’s fate became uncertain when it canceled its loan agreement with China for various infrastructure projects, including the railway project.

The Department of Finance formally notified the Chinese Assembly of its withdrawal from the development aid proposal for the railway project.

Citing reasons such as the Chinese government’s inaction since 2022, higher interest rates, and “geopolitical factors.”

Political strategist Malou Tiquia highlighted a significant setback, attributing it to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s foreign policy shift away from China and towards the United States.

“Because we observed that immediately upon pivoting towards America, all Chinese investments weakened. Even tourism, where China was our top contributor, made China ponder about our stance,” Prof. Malou Tiquia, Political Strategist said.

Tiquia emphasized that in the realm of foreign policy, leaders should not burn bridges with other nations and must remain neutral for the best interests of their country.

“You shouldn’t close the door. If you close the door, the window remains open. Continuous communication is essential. There may be disagreements, especially in the South China Sea, which I believe are acceptable, but due to our longstanding friendship with China, reaching almost 50 years of diplomatic ties, I think it’s crucial to keep our minds open and maintain dialogue,” Tiquia stressed.

In July 2022, Transportation Undersecretary for Railways Cesar Chavez mentioned that the Chinese government did not respond to the Duterte administration’s request for loan financing for three major railway projects, including the Tagum-Davao-Digos segment of the Mindanao Railway Project.

In September 2022, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) announced the Philippines’ plan to resubmit loan applications for three China-funded projects.

The original plan in 2021 aimed to start construction of the railway project’s phase 1 in the second quarter of 2022, with partial operability targeted by the latter part of the year.

The Mindanao Railway was initially scheduled to commence construction for its phase 1 in January 2019.

Tiquia stressed that the administration must explore all available avenues to advance the interests of the Filipino people in collaboration with neighboring Asian countries.

“Because it is crucial; China is our biggest neighbor in Asia, the largest market for Philippine products, and we even modify our labor for OFWs. It’s challenging if you say, “I consider you an enemy, and because you’re an enemy, I don’t want you to enter,” Tiquia added.

Currently, the government is reassessing the Mindanao Railway project, updating costs and potential ridership.

There’s a possibility of shifting the financing mode to include the private sector, rather than relying solely on loans.

The Transportation Department states that a review of the detailed engineering design might be necessary, and due to the delay, it may need to return to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) for updates.


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