By Luis Leoncio
Top Philippine and Japanese officials have agreed to streamline their respective approval processes and introduce new measures to put in the fast lane the implementation of big-ticket infrastructure contracts for possible Japan financing under the so-called “Fast and Sure” principle.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III thanked Japan for its continued support for the Philippines’ economic development on the watch of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has pledged a 1-trillion yen ($9 billion) investment and development aid package to the country.
“Now that our plans have progressed, we intend to lay out specific plans on how to expedite the processing and implementation of the flagship projects,” Dominguez said in his opening remarks during the meeting, referring to the infrastructure projects that the Philippines will be implementing in cooperation with Japan.
In their meeting, both panels agreed to speed up their respective project approval processes and come up with additional measures “for more efficient decision making, and swift execution such as in project preparation and formulation, due diligence, procurement process and project implementation including land acquisition and resettlement,” Dominguez said.
Noting that both governments have successfully introduced improvements in their key processes in the past, the meeting allowed both sides to discuss additional measures to streamline processing, including by introducing innovative mechanisms and actions. The Japanese side expressed openness to explore and discuss government to government measures.
Dominguez said the Philippines’ proposed first subway line, made feasible and possible through Japanese financing and technical support will be “a great monument to the friendship” between the two countries.
As the Duterte administration pursues its ambitious program to modernize infrastructure and accelerate inclusive growth, Dominguez told potential Japanese investors at a briefing in Tokyo on the Philippine economy that the government was looking forward to increased investment flows from Japanese companies.
“We are impressed with the commitment to excellence that imbues your corporate culture. We hope to benefit from the transfers of technology that invariably tracks investment flows,” he said in noting that Japan has been a major source of industrial investments in the Philippines.
“We look forward to an even stronger partnership with the Japanese people,” said Dominguez at the recent Philippine Economic Briefing held at Conrad Hotel Tokyo, Japan.
Dominguez said the Duterte administration’s accelerated spending beginning in this year’s second quarter illustrated the Duterte government’s greater absorptive capacity and its strong political resolve to embark on an unprecedented investment program anchored on higher public spending on infrastructure and social services that is designed to spell economic inclusion for all Filipinos.
Dominguez said the government is working with Congress on tax policy and administration reforms to ensure a steady revenue stream that would enable it to carry out this capital-intensive high-growth program while maintaining fiscal discipline.
“The fiscal discipline we maintained over the past few years enabled the country to achieve investment grade credit ratings. Those ratings enable us to borrow at significantly lower rates. We intend to continue deserving those credit ratings,” Dominguez said.
He said the economy has become “an engine of growth” in Asia, with its second quarter GDP expanding by 6.5 percent, which is well on track in meeting the full-year target growth rate of 6.5 to 7.5 percent.