THE Department of Finance (DoF) expects to sign a $202.04-million loan agreement with Japan for the Road Network Development Project in Conflict-Affected Areas.

The signing is expected to take place during a meeting between Japanese and Philippine officials in New Clark City. It will be the eighth session of the high-level joint committee since March 2017.

The project involves building, rehabilitating and improving the 178.43-kilometer road network in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and its neighboring regions, which is aimed to boost Mindanao’s economy and help alleviate poverty in conflict-affected areas.

The loan was pledged by the Japanese government on Jan. 18.

“The project will construct and improve access roads to arterial roads linking the main cities of Mindanao, thereby contributing to the revitalization of the regional economy, the reduction of poverty and the consolidation of peace in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao,” the Japanese Embassy in the Philippines said in a statement.

“This project will contribute to improve logistics, stimulate economic activity and strengthen access to the region with the construction and refurbishment of roads and bridges in the conflict-affected areas of Mindanao,” it added.

The participants will also discuss the progress of infrastructure projects funded by Japan in the Philippines under the administration’s Build, Build, Build program, according to the DoF.

The meeting will be chaired by Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia while the Japanese delegation will be led by Hiroto Izumi, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister.

Other loan agreements with Japan were signed between October 2016 and January 2019 worth a combined 398.82 billion yen.

The loans will be used to fund the Maritime Safety Capability Improvement Project for the Philippine Coast Guard (Phase II); the Harnessing Agribusiness Opportunities through Robust and Vibrant Entrepreneurship Supportive of Peaceful Transformation project; the Cavite Industrial Area Flood Risk Management Project; the Arterial Road Bypass Project (Phase III) in Bulacan; the New Bohol Airport Construction and Sustainable Environment Protection Project (II); the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 Rehabilitation Project; the Pasig-Marikina River Channel Improvement Project (Phase IV); the North-South Commuter Railway Extension Project (1st tranche of loan); and the Metro Manila Subway Project (Phase I).

Japan has provided the Philippines official development assistance (ODA) loans amounting to $6.13 billion as of 2018, based on data from the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). Grants from Japan meanwhile amounted to $106.76 million. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio