Temporary housing units for Marawi evacuees under construction in this December 2017 photo — PHILSTAR/BOY SANTOS

PHILIPPINE and Japanese officials will convene today the Joint Committee on Infrastructure Development and Economic Cooperation to discuss the progress of Japan-funded infrastructure projects.

In a statement Tuesday, the Department of Finance (DoF) said the Japan-backed infrastructure projects that will be discussed during the meeting include the Metro Manila Subway (Phase I), the North-South Railway, the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) Rehabilitation, the Davao City Bypass, and the Cebu-Mactan Bridge and Coastal Road.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III will lead Philippine representatives and Japan will be represented by Hiroto Izumi, special advisor to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

The video conference will be the first such meeting since talks began in March 2017, amid travel restrictions due to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The officials will also discuss the impact of the pandemic on project implementation, the DoF said.

The Philippines will also report the progress of the peace process in Mindanao, the ongoing rehabilitation of Marawi City, and the status of the newly-established Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Japan is expected to give an update on its ongoing aid to Mindanao under the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development framework, as well as other programs that aim to promote stability and economic growth in BARMM.

The last meeting was held in Hakone, Japan in December.

The two countries have signed 15 loan agreements worth 679.3 billion yen (P317 billion) since the administration took over in 2016.

Eleven agreements cover big-ticket infrastructure projects under “Build, Build, Build,” the administration’s flagship program.

Japan also extended two loans worth 100 billion yen to help the Philippines fund its pandemic containment effort.

Japan is the Philippines’ biggest source of official development assistance (ODA) with $10.1 billion worth of loan and grant commitments as of June, accounting for 38.53% of the latter’s total ODA portfolio. — Beatrice M. Laforga