THE PHILIPPINES has received the fourth and last tranche worth ¥10 billion (P4.6 billion) from Japan’s standby loan facility for the government’s pandemic response, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) said on Friday. 

JICA, the lending arm of the Japanese government, has now fully disbursed the ¥50-billion (P23 billion) post-disaster standby loan package it extended to the Philippines in September 2020. 

The last tranche was released amid the reimposition of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila and other parts of the country from Aug. 6-20 as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infections spiked due to the more contagious Delta variant. 

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said in a separate statement on Friday that the government tapped the quick disbursement facility to fund its cash aid program for poor households in areas under ECQ. 

The government distributed P1,000 per person or up to P4,000 per family to low-income households for its cash aid program this month. It allotted P11.26 billion for Metro Manila residents, P2.715 billion for Laguna and P700 million for beneficiaries in Bataan. 

Under a standby loan facility, disbursements can be done once certain conditions are met, such as a declaration of a state of calamity or a state of public health emergency; public health emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic; and the imposition of an enhanced community quarantine. 

The facility releases funds in batches and can be tapped within three years. The loan has a fixed interest rate of 0.01% and has a maturity period of 40 years, inclusive of a 10-year grace period. 

The first tranche worth ¥10 billion was disbursed on Oct. 27 following the declaration of a state of calamity in the country. This was followed by another ¥10-billion tranche in January as the entire Luzon was placed under a state of calamity. 

Lastly, in June, JICA released ¥20 billion to the government to help it fund its P23-billion cash aid program when Metro Manila and neighboring provinces were placed under an ECQ again as coronavirus infections spiked. 

“JICA continues to support partner countries like the Philippines in curbing potential breakouts from COVID-19 variants and help Filipinos build back better from this public health crisis,” JICA Philippines Chief Representative Eigo Azukizawa said. 

“As development partners, we need to work together to manage the crisis, strengthen health systems, and save lives. JICA’s PDSL 2 assistance will hopefully support effective and sustainable measures against COVID-19 in the Philippines,” he added. 

Aside from the standby loan facility, the Philippines also obtained a separate ¥50-billion loan from JICA for its pandemic response. 

Japan also donated one million doses of coronavirus vaccines to help the country contain the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Japan was the country’s largest source of official development assistance in 2020, with outstanding grants and loans worth $11.18 billion or 36.44% of the  country’s total. — Beatrice M. Laforga