The proposed 2,000-kilometer railway project is envisioned to connect key Mindanao cities including Davao, Zamboanga, Butuan, Surigao, Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, and General Santos in order to spur economic development in the region.
"China is interested and very eager and Japan has also expressed interest," said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia.
Pernia was speaking at a press conference held by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) in Davao City on Thursday, August 18, to detail the country's economic growth for the second quarter.
China, which is currently involved in a maritime dispute with the Philippines, has done similar Official Development Assistance (ODA) projects involving railways in Africa in recent years.
Chinese officials also met with President Rodrigo Duterte before his inauguration, and expressed interest in building the proposed Manila-Clark railway project.
Japan, meanwhile, has a long history of assisting the country through ODA, with the Philippines being the Asian giant's 4th largest recipient of assistance. Japan is also lending the country P93 billion in order to build the Tutuban-Malolos railway.
NEDA also said the government of South Korea is interested in the Mindanao Railway System project which could be done partly as ODA.
"The project is not really limited to just one type of investor or investment and can also be a combination of investments. It still needs to undergo analysis as to which one is the most beneficial," Pernia said, adding that it could start as soon as next year.
Aside from assistance from other governments, Pernia said 4 private firms are also considering the railway project – San Miguel Corporation, Metro Pacific Investments Corporation, Ayala Corporation, and Megawide Construction Corporation.
NEDA Deputy Director General Rolando Tungpalan said the government is currently weighing the best course of action through a study.
"It is part of the study to determine the best way to structure the project, so we do not want to preempt, but we're aware of the current offers from the governments of Japan, China, and South Korea," he said.
Tungpalan also noted that the type of financing will depend on the results of the feasibility study.
"You don't want to say PPP (public-private partnership) right away because some of it might require just a purely government investment, so we have not reached a decision," he explained.