THE Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) said 900 billion yen worth of funding remains unreleased from allocations to support the development of the Philippine railway system.

“Just (in) the railway sector… we project to commit about 1.3 trillion yen for railway project. In total, actually, we have only committed about 400 billion yen, so far, so at least for the railway sector, 900 billion yen (will go towards completing) the ongoing railway projects,” Kiyo Kawabuchi, senior representative of JICA, said during a briefing on Thursday.

Currently, JICA is funding various railway projects with a total of 595 billion yen in loan funding, including the unreleased portions of the loans.

These include the first tranche of the Metro Manila Subway Project to be operational by 2025, the North-South Commuter railway (NSCR) Project, the first tranche of its Extension project to be completed by 2022, Rehabilitation of the Metro Rail Transit Line- 3 (MRT-3) to be completed by 2022, the Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT-1) Cavite Extension Project due for completion by 2021, and the LRT-2 East Extension Project due for completion by 2020.

The Department of Transportation (DoTr) said the projects will expand the country’s railway lines to about 244 kilometers from the current 79 kilometers.

These projects are some of the transport interventions listed in the JICA 2014 Road Map for Transport Infrastructure Development for Metro Manila, which was adopted by the government. The road map also includes the improvement of the country’s roads, expressways, and traffic management as priorities to decongest traffic, and to fuel economic activity.

On a follow up survey in 2017, JICA said that the Build, Build, Build program of the government could help address the P3.5 billion lost to road congestion.

“Really the vision anchors on the statement of the President which is to deliver a more comfortable life to the Filipinos…. What part of it? The transport part because you may have livelihood opportunities, you may have education opportunities, you may have health services, but if these government services are not within reach of the people in a convenient manner then it somehow reduces the benefits or the value of all these government services,” Timothy John R. Batan, DoTr undersecretary for railways, said during the briefing.

“There is a basket of solutions. Rail plays a major role in that basket… and what we have really been pushing together with… our implementation partners and our development partners is to find the appropriate role of rail in that basket because really the objective is not to build rail for building’s sake. The objective is for us to achieve a certain level of convenience, predictability,” he added. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang