THE PHILIPPINES and Japan on Thursday signed a 38-billion yen loan agreement to upgrade and rehabilitate the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3).
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III signed the loan agreement on behalf of the Philippines, while Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) senior vice-president Yasushi Tanaka signed on behalf of Japan.
The project seeks to improve the safety, reliability and the level of service of the 16.9-kilometer light rail system connecting 13 stations along EDSA — Metro Manila’s main artery.
The MRT-3 rehabilitation project will cost a total of P21.96 billion. Japan will provide a loan covering about 85% or P18.76 billion via its Official Development Assistance (ODA) agency, JICA. The remaining P3.19 billion will be funded by the Philippines.
The interest rate is 0.10% for non-consulting services and 0.01% for consulting services, with a maturity period of 40 years inclusive of a 12-year grace period.
“This is by every measure a very soft loan that will enable us to address a very pressing problem,” Mr. Dominguez said in his speech.
“This is good news for the Filipino commuters so they will have improved access to safe and reliable transportation, while also meeting the Philippine government’s priorities to reduce traffic congestion in Metro Manila, attract investments, and improve the quality of life of the people,” said JICA Senior Vice-President Yasushi Tanaka.
The project involves the replacement of “worn-out” tracks, a “general overhaul” of the 15-year old 72 light rail vehicles, that seeks to eliminate the problems of train stoppages, system failures, engine breakdowns and faulty air conditioning besetting the line.
The loan will also cover the rail line’s train cars, power supply system, overhead catenary system, radio system, closed-circuit television system, public address system, depot equipment, elevators and escalators and other station-building equipment.
Transportation Undersecretary Timothy John R. Batan said that the rehabilitation process will not disrupt the current capacity of the MRT-3.
He said that the DoTr will return the MRT to its normal design capacity in the next 26 months, to 20 operating transits from the current 15, and time intervals of three and a half minutes between trains from seven minutes currently, speeds of 60 kilometers per hour (kph) from 30 kph, and passengers carried to 500,000 from 388,000 currently.
He said that the DoTr will gradually increase the MRT’s capacity further until the 43rd month.
Mr. Batan said that the government will tap the services of Sumitomo-Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), the original maintenance provider of MRT-3 when it was first rolled out, before its contract was terminated in 2012.
He said that Sumitomo began the rehabilitation process on Oct. 15 to help accelerate the project.
Mr. Batan also said that the DoTr is still proceeding with the full integration of all the trains bought from Chinese firm CRRC Dalian Co.
“The transition process is already ongoing and full mobilization will be in January. The mobilization is already happening. The interface with Dalian trains is something that we are currently discussing in order to make sure that all the considerations have been addressed.
Mr. Dominguez said that the MRT rehabilitation was the fastest that was ever processed between both countries, taking less than three months.
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board, chaired by President Rodrigo R. Duterte, approved the rehabilitation project on Aug. 22
“I would like to assure our harried commuters that we will rebuild and reinvent this vital rail service as quickly as possible,” Mr. Dominguez said. — Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan