THE Philippine government, through the Department of Finance (DoF), and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Friday signed a total of $623 million worth of loans to finance feasibility studies for infrastructure projects, to further boost the competitive market and to provide more employment opportunities for the youth.

The three loan packages included the $400-million funding for the Facilitating Youth School-to-Work Transition program — subprogram 2; the $200-million additional financing for the Infrastructure Preparation and Innovation Facility; and $23.3-million Capacity Building to Foster Competition project.

After the signing ceremony, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said that the $200 million loan was the second one that they availed from the ADB, following the $100 million they borrowed in 2017.

“We realized that in order to come up with a robust pipeline, we needed to finance the project studies for projects (to be implemented).. in the future. (After the first loan program), we see that there is still a long list of feasibility studies that we have to make so we applied for this facility of $200 million and I think this will develop a very good pipeline for future administrations to implement,” Mr. Dominguez said.

ADB Vice President Ahmed Saeed said the loan will support the government in “high quality and innovative project preparation” for its priority infrastructure projects, including the Bataan–Cavite Interlink Bridge Project and the Metro Rail Transit Line 4 connecting Ortigas in Metro Manila and Taytay in eastern Rizal province.

ADB also said in a statement that the funding will support the staff of the country’s biggest infrastructure implementing bodies, the Department of Public Works annd Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Transportation (DoTr), in the preparation and implementation stages of the infrastructure projects.

Mr. Saeed said that the $400-million loan for the Facilitating Youth School-to-Work Transition Program will support reforms and programs by the Department of Labor and Employment.

“These reforms have translated into robust employment growth, with a net of 1.3 million new wage jobs created in the 12 months to October 2019… Labor market programs have also been fundamental to reducing poverty and household inequality,” he said.

In an earlier statement, ADB said that the loan will also support the government’s effort to reduce the number of out-of-school youth while enhancing skills of young Filipinos for employment through labor market programs and accessible on-the-job training systems.

“As the populations of some of the more mature economies in Asia begin to age, we are looking forward to the entry of millions of young Filipinos into the workforce. We must invest in them and ensure that they are globally competitive,” Mr. Dominguez said.

Meanwhile, the $23-million capacity building to foster competition project will help the government enforce the Philippine Competition Law and provide support to the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC).

PCC Chairman Arsenio M. Balisacan said that the competition policy regime in the country is relatively new, while individuals and institutions are not fully equipped to address the proliferation of anti-competitive practices.

“With this assistance, we will be able to build that human capacity, we will be able to send more people to pursue specialization in competition law and policy and we will be able to build in the Philippines a center of excellence that will produce a manpower for competition policy and reinforcement,” Mr. Balisacan told reporters during the same event.

The three recently signed loan agreements are part of the ADB’s $10.3 billion financing support it committed to the country over the medium term.

So far since 2009, the multilateral lender provided a total of $7.2 billion worth of loans to the Philippines and is looking to grow its portfolio with an additional $2.5 billion this year and another $7.8 billion next year until 2021.

“The proposed substantial increase in ADB’s loan assistance underscores the Bank’s strong support in translating the Duterte administration’s development objectives into concrete investments, particularly related to the country’s Build, Build, Build Program, human capital development, disaster preparedness, tourism, health care, and agriculture,” Mr. Dominguez added. — Beatrice M. Laforga