A P2-billion loan from Japan is set to be signed “in the coming months” to fund earthquake resilience improvements for key bridges in Metro Manila, the Department of Finance said.

In a statement Saturday, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III told Hiroto Izumi, head of a Japanese delegation at a meeting held near Tokyo, that the Philippines and Japan are “ready to sign the 4.409 billion yen supplemental loan agreement for the Metro Manila Priority Seismic Bridge Improvement Project in the coming months.”

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has said that the project will enhance the seismic resilience of Lambingan and Guadalupe bridges in Metro Manila, which are expected to be completed by 2022.

Lambingan bridges the Pasig River between Manila and Mandaluyong while Guadalupe is the Pasig river crossing along EDSA, Metro Manila’s most heavily-trafficked circumferential road.

During the ninth high-level meeting of the Philippines-Japan Joint Committee on Infrastructure Development and Economic Cooperation, the two officials signed a memorandum of cooperation (MoC) that formalizes Japan’s commitment to provide technical support in drafting a master plan for Subic Bay Freeport.

Last month, DoF said that Japan has agreed to support the proposed master plan, which will develop possible projects to boost economic activity in the Subic Bay area.

The meeting discussed the implementation of Japan-funded infrastructure projects, in which Japan committed “to extend additional technical assistance that are critical to the Philippines’ campaign to bridge the infrastructure financing gap,” on top of its existing loan agreements.

The Finance department said that the two sides will work on the exchange of notes and the loan agreement for an additional loan to fund the ongoing Davao City Bypass Construction Project (DCBCP).

The two also promised to hasten arranging the Central Mindanao Highway Project (Cagayan de Oro-Malaybalay Section) as a candidate for the Japanese official development assistance.

In addition, DoF said Japanese officials also expressed interest in conducting the pre-feasibility studies of the four priority projects — the Cebu Circumferential Road, the Second San Juanico Bridge and Access Road, the Central Mindanao Highway (Cagayan de Oro-Malaybay Section) as well as the Agusan del Norte-Butuan City Logistical Highway (also known as the fourth Butuan Bridge).

They also discussed other “loan financing arrangements for the Philippines as it transitions to an upper middle-income country status ahead of schedule in 2020.”

The Japanese officials reiterated their interest in providing loans for the Cebu-Mactan Bridge and Coastal Road Construction Project and additional technical aid to the Bangsamoro Transition Authority and the rehabilitation of the most affected areas in Marawi City. — Beatrice M. Laforga