MORE INFRASTRUCTURE projects funded by Japan advanced further in the pipeline after top economic officials from the Philippines and Japan exchanged notes during their meeting late Wednesday, while also identifying new prospects.
Philippine and Japanese officials held the 6th meeting of the Philippines-Japan High-Level Joint Committee on Infrastructure Development and Economic Cooperation in Manila on Wednesday evening where both sides signed and exchanged notes for a ¥37.905-billion, or $336.24 million, loan for the Pasig-Marikina River Channel Improvement Project Phase IV and another ¥167.199 billion, or $1.413 billion, for the first tranche of the North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR) Extension Project.
The Pasig-Marikina River Channel Improvement Project involves upgrading works along the stretch of the Upper Marikina River — from downstream of the Manggahan Floodway to the Marikina Bridge — as well as construction of the Marikina Control Gate Structure.
The 109-kilometer NSCR Extension Project, meanwhile, will extend the Malolos, Bulacan-Tutuban, Manila railway to Clark International Airport in the north and to Calamba, Laguna in the south. The system will have 58 eight-car trains, seven of which will be airport express trains, and a double-tracked elevated railway that will connect with other lines in Metro Manila.
The exchange of notes is done before the signing of loan agreements.
Manila and Tokyo also signed and exchanged bilateral documents for a Contract of General Consulting Service for the Metro Manila Subway Project Phase I between the Department of Transportation (DoTr) and a consortium of six Japanese firms and OC Global; and the joint venture agreement among the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), Japan Overseas Infrastructure Investment Corporation for Transport and Urban Development (JOIN), and Surbana Jurong for the New Clark City.
Both sides committed to open the first three stations of the Metro Manila Subway by May 2022, inclusion of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport line extension in the detailed engineering design of the project and establishment of the Philippine Railway Institute by 2021.
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said in a briefing after the meeting that technical working groups will meet regularly to “address challenges for the railway projects.”
“The Japanese side requested the Philippine government to expedite measures such as land acquisition and relocation of utilities.”
Both sides also discussed the possibility of more Japanese ODA financing for “road construction and expansion projects in northern Luzon and Metro Manila, flood management and drainage improvements, and various components of the New Clark City project.”
Loan agreements signed by Japan and the Philippines since the committee met in March last year include: P11 billion for the Mega Manila Subway; P18.76 billion for the Metro Rail Transit-Line 3 (MRT-3) Rehabilitation program, P2.10 billion for the New Bohol Airport Construction and Sustainable Environmental Protection Project Phase 2, and the P4 billion for the Arterial Road Bypass Phase 3 project.
“The Philippines is already at the verge of graduating to the level where we will not qualify anymore for ODA for some countries. Our income per capita is rising, so while we are still here, I think it is best for us to take advantage of the long tenors and the relatively low interest rates because after a few years we will no longer be qualified for that. We will be considered a middle-income country, therefore, we will have to pay higher interest rates. So it makes sense for as to have these projects funded now rather than later,” Mr. Dominguez said.
Aside from Japan, the Philippines has attracted financing support from China, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, the United States, the European Union and Canada. — Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan