PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte witnessed the formal signing last Thursday of a $1.3 billion loan, the first tranche of a total $2.75 billion facility, between the Philippines and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for the Malolos-Clark Railway Project (MCRP).

The loan agreement was signed by Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III and ADB Vice-President Ahmed M. Saeed.

“The Malolos-Clark railway is part of the Philippine government’s North-South Commuter Railway project, which aims to link New Clark City to Calamba by 2025,” the ADB said in a statement.

The project, according to the ADB, will use “cutting-edge technology to build an elevated railway line, with a maximum train speed of 160 kilometers per hour, to help ease chronic road congestion in and around Metro Manila, reduce air pollution, cut the costs of transport and logistics, and encourage economic growth and a population shift outside the capital.”

Mr. Saeed was quoted as saying: “Our work in the Philippines has always held a special place in the history of ADB. Now, under President Duterte’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ infrastructure program, ADB is considerably scaling up its own support to the government… The Malolos-Clark Railway Project is ADB’s single largest infrastructure project financing ever at $2.75 billion. We are pleased to be supporting this important flagship project in our host country.”

The President said in his speech during the ceremony: “I am directing the Department of Transportation (DoTr) to fast-track the completion the MCRP and observe the highest quality standards as we complete this railway project.”

“By the time it is completed, I expect that our people, especially those from Central Luzon, will greatly feel the impact of our ‘Build, Build, Build’ program,” he added.

The ADB noted that the project is the result of its “close collaboration” with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the DoTr.

“During project preparation, a joint technical team from the department and the two institutions conducted regular ‘Build, Build, Build’ meetings, with reporting to Transportation Secretary Mr. Arthur Tugade. ADB’s safeguard and resettlement policies were adopted and are being implemented for the project,” it also said. — Arjay L. Balinbin