FOUR MORE flagship projects cumulatively worth P386.248 billion, led by the country’s first subway that will run in Metro Manila, under the government’s P8.44-trillion six-year “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program have received the green light for implementation, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said yesterday.

In a press release, NEDA said its board — led by President Rodrigo R. Duterte — approved in its fifth meeting last Tuesday the ₱355.588-billion first phase of the Metro Manila Subway as well as irrigation, road and bridge projects.

The latest batch, NEDA said, brings the administration’s total number of approved major projects to 35 worth ₱1.2 trillion. The government has lined up a total of 75 flagship infrastructure projects that will be implemented by the departments of Agriculture, Energy, Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and of Transportation (DoTr); as well as the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao; Bases Conversion and Development Authority; Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System and the National Irrigation Administration.

“The approval and eventual completion of these projects will pave the way for us to achieve our mid-term and long-term goals as a country and a nation,” NEDA quoted its director-general, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia, as saying in the statement.

The first phase of Metro Manila’s subway will have stops from Mindanao Avenue in Quezon City to the Food Terminal, Inc. complex in Taguig City and could stretch as far as Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Parañaque City.

To be financed by Official Development Assistance (ODA) from Japan, the project will begin construction early next year, NEDA said, adding that the project’s “first phase will significantly improve Metro Manila’s transportation system, air quality and productivity, thereby reducing the ₱2.4-billion economic loss the country incurs daily due to heavy traffic.”

The three other new projects that bagged final approval were:

• ₱21.19-billion Improving Growth Corridors in Mindanao Road Sector Project, to be funded by a loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and which involves upgrading of seven roads as well as construction of three bridges in Tawi-Tawi. Construction will begin late this year and end in the fourth quarter of 2020.

• ₱5.97 billion Binondo-Intramuros and Estrella-Pantaleon Bridges Construction Project, to be funded by grants from China and whose construction will start next quarter and end in 2020’s fourth quarter;

• ₱3.5 billion Lower Agno River Irrigation System Improvement Project, to be funded by the government, that will cover 12,650 hectares and benefit 10,372 farmers in seven municipalities in Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan and Tarlac. Implementation will be from January 2018 to December 2021;

• Infrastructure Preparation and Innovation Facility of the Department of Finance that is designed to accelerate approval and “ensure timely, high-quality procurement and implementation” of key DPWH and DoTr projects.

Besides these new projects, the NEDA Board also approved changes in three other previously approved projects, namely:

• increase in cost to P299.4 billion from P285 billion previously of the Philippine National Railways’ South Line, to be funded by ODA from China, that will consist of a 72 kilometer commuter line between Solis-Hermosa station in Manila and Los Baños, Laguna and a 581 km long-haul line that will run link Manila, Laguna, Batangas, Quezon, Albay, Camarines Sur and Sorsogon;

• Validity extension to Dec. 30, 2019 of the ADB loan for the Road Improvement and Institutional Development Project;

• increase in cost to P16.30 billion from P10.61 billion of the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit system due to changes in land valuation; and

• change of mode of implementation for the Clark International Airport Expansion to build-transfer (BT) scheme under Republic Act No. 7718 or the amended build-operate-transfer law.