Team Unity to push for Mindanao railway project

May. 10, 2007

MANILA — THE ambitious blueprint for the full development of Mindanao is expected to proceed at full throttle with the poll victory of Team Unity in the wake of a TU proposal on the creation of an ultra-modern railway project that will link the multi-ethnic communities in the Philippines’ southern backdoor.

Former Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, describing Mindanao as a “beautiful, blessed land,” said in a recent interview that one of his priority projects, once he wins in the Senate race, is the creation of Mindanao Railways Corporation that would transform the island into a major food basket.

Sotto said there is an imperative need for Mindanao to build a network of railroad lines because of its vast expanse of land where the Arroyo administration has developed new roads and highways, including farm-to-market roads as part of her “social payback” program

“Pero kung ito’y tatagusan natin ng isang modern railway system, maipapakita na ang Mindanao ay tuluyang magiging food basket of the country and Asia because of the fertile land of Mindanao,” Sotto said.

“Dinidiligan ng Panginoon ang Mindanao araw-araw. Magandang-maganda ang lugar na iyun kaya gusto nating itulak ang mga development programs duon,” Sotto said.

Sotto said he was so captivated by the beauty and natural wealth of Mindanao that during his previous term in the Senate, he had authored several legislative measures that benefited the southern island. Among them were the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Code, and the creation of Samal City island and the Caraga region.

If he succeeds in returning to the Senate, Sotto said he will give priority to two to three important projects for Mindanao that had been conveyed to him by Mindanaoans during the campaign sorties of Team Unity.

“Nagtatampo ang mga mamayan sa Mindanao dahil napapabayaan daw sila samantalang wala naman ginagawa ang mga (senador) nasa Metro Manila kungdi magdebate ng magdebate at magaway-away at hindi inaalam ang kalagayan nila,” Sotto said.

Aside from his commitment to help Mindanao and contribute to helping sustain the economic growth and social programs under President Arroyo’s “8 by 08” agenda, Sotto had earlier stressed the need for strengthening the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) so as to make it more effective in the fight against illegal drugs.

Sotto, who was principal author of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 and was also instrumental in the creation of PDEA, said, “Ngayon ang kailangan natin madagdagan pa ‘yung kalakasan d’yan sa pakikipaglaban (sa illegal drugs).”

“Merong mga bagong avenues na pwede nilang pasukin, eh,” Sotto added. “May mga bagong problema tayo, for example, ‘yung pagiging transient point natin (in the illegal drugs trade).”

Sotto also proposed the upgrading of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), which is not only ill-equipped but also undermanned despite its critical role in safeguarding the longest shoreline in the world.

“Mas mahaba pa ang shoreline natin sa America, pero ang America, may matibay na Coast Guard,” he added.

“Nung araw napigil natin ‘yan (Philippines as drug transient point), pero hindi natin namamalayan nagagamit tayo sapagka’t ang shoreline ng Pilipinas eh isa sa pinakamahabang shoreline sa buong mundo,” he said.

Sotto proposed a review of the Dangerous Drugs Act every five years, saying such a review, for example, could decide whether an anti-illegal illegal drugs bureau should be attached to the PDEA or the Philippine Coast Guard.###

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