High-level Philippine and Japanese officials have continued to discuss last June 20 the timelines and possible plans of action to do away with bottlenecks and swiftly address concerns on the preparation and implementation of flagship infrastructure projects that the Philippines is undertaking in cooperation with Japan.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said that during the 5th meeting of the Philippines-Japan Joint Committee on Infrastructure Development and Economic Cooperation, Japanese officials expressed their government’s intention to provide indicative official development assistance (ODA) loan financing of about 38.1 billion yen for the MRT Line 3 Rehabilitation Project and an indicative supplemental loan of some 4.37 billion yen for the second phase of the New Bohol Airport Construction and Sustainable Environmental Protection Project “subject to the necessary Philippine and Japanese Government approval processes.”
Dominguez said he extended the Philippines’ appreciation for Japan’s full support for these projects under the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program.
Aside from these two projects, the committee also confirmed the updated candidate list of projects to which Japan will provide assistance.
They include the: 1) Philippine National Railways (PNR) North 2 Project, which will run from Malolos in Bulacan to Clark in Pampanga; 2) PNR South Commuter Line, which will extend from Tutuban in Manila to Calamba in Laguna; 3) Pasig-Marikina River Channel Improvement Project, which aims to mitigate flooding in Metro Manila; and the 4) Road Network Development Project in Conflict-Affected Areas in Mindanao.
Officials of both countries also reaffirmed their commitment toward the partial operability of the first phase of the Metro Manila Subway Project by May 2022, subject to the progress of the measures that need to be carried out to deal with various concerns, such as land acquisition and relocation of utilities.
Dominguez and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia headed the Philippine delegation during the meeting held at the Office of the Prime Minister, while the Japanese side was led by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and Shigeru Kiyama, the special advisor to the Cabinet.
“This is now our fifth meeting since March 2017 and it is evident that our frequent meetings are beginning to bear positive results,” Dominguez said. “Indeed, our commitment and efforts to fast-track loan processing and project implementation are gaining headway.”
Dominguez said that “as a result of these high-level meetings, our various agencies have been coordinating regularly to implement our agreed and joint actions to facilitate and hasten project implementation.”
Suga, meanwhile expressed the hope that the latest meeting would lead to more “fruitful and constructive discussions towards fast and secure implementation of the projects.”
“This joint committee has been (convening) for the important plan in developing multi-layer bilateral cooperation since we discussed cooperation in various areas such as traffic and transport infrastructure problems, the Metro Manila Subway project, peace and development in Mindanao, safety and counter terrorism measures and information and technology,” Suga said.
On behalf of the Filipino people, Dominguez and the Philippine delegation also extended their deepest sympathies to the victims of the magnitude 6.1 earthquake that hit Osaka last June 18.
The Philippine officials also expressed their sincere hope for the swift recovery of the city from the damages wrought by the earthquake, which took the lives of a number of Japanese nationals, injured several hundreds more, and paralyzed the city’s utilities and transportation.
Japan said it “was deeply grateful for the concern shown by the Philippine government.”
Besides Dominguez and Pernia, the Philippine delegation also included Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea; Secretaries Alan Peter Cayetano of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Benjamin Diokno of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Arthur Tugade of the Department of Transportation (DOTr), Mark Villar of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Alfonso Cusi of the Department of Energy (DOE); Vivencio Dizon, the president of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), and other key government officials.
During the meeting, Dominguez expressed the Philippine government’s appreciation for the efforts by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to streamline its approval process, and hoped that “the same efficient approach would be applied to the processing of other projects in the pipeline.”
The Philippine side, for its part, shared the progress it has made to help speed up its own approval processes, such as establishing the Project Facilitation, Monitoring and Innovation (PFMI) Task Force, adopting measures to address right-of-way and resettlement issues, and providing budget cover for counterpart funding requirements.
For the railway projects to be implemented with Japanese funding support, both sides agreed to continue the trilateral consultations regarding the co-financing arrangement between JICA and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for the PNR North 2 project and the PNR South Commuter Line.
These consultations aim to firm up strategies and ways on how to efficiently implement the two PNR projects.
“We are targeting to sign the Exchange of Notes for both projects in November 2018,” Dominguez said. We will also exert efforts to achieve the challenging goal of making the North rail section partially operational by 2022.”
The South rail section, meanwhile, would require more time to commence operations because of the existing railway and complexity of the project design.
“Both sides will continue to have consultations at the technical working level to accelerate implementation and address challenges for the railway projects,” Dominguez said.
During the meeting, Philippine officials also provided an update on the Mindanao peace process and informed their counterparts of the approval of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, after which Japan reaffirmed its commitment to support the establishment of a new Bangsamoro government by enhancing its development assistance in Mindanao, Dominguez said.
The Philippine side also requested Japan to provide a concessional financing package for the Road Network Development Project in Conflict Areas in Mindanao, which include Marawi City, as well as for other infrastructure projects in the pipeline to which Japan responded by expressing its intent to immediately start consultations on these concerns.
Both sides also confirmed to further explore possible urban development projects in the cities of Cebu and Davao, and discussed developments in the following areas of sectoral cooperation: 1) regional development, 2) information and communications technology, 3) energy, 4) agriculture, 5) environment, 6) public safety, and 7) disaster prevention.
After the meeting, two official documents were also signed by the Philippines and Japan, namely: 1) the Record of Discussions of the fifth meeting, and the 2) Letter of Intent for the Technical Cooperation between the DOE and the Japan Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry on the Action Plan on Electric Power, which aims to help resolve issues plaguing the Philippine power sector, such as the need to improve generation efficiency and electrification rates.
An Amended Joint Venture Agreement between the BCDA and the Surbana Jurong Group, which restates their commitment to develop the New Clark City in Pampanga was also signed after the meeting.
Among the achievements of the high-level committee, which first convened in March last year, are 12 Japanese ODA projects already delivered since the inauguration of President Duterte.
These include 27 units of high-quality Japanese heavy machinery for the rehabilitation and rebuilding of Marawi City and its surrounding areas, enhancements for the Philippines’ coastal communications systems, patrol vehicles for the Philippine National Police, high-speed boats and other maritime vessels for the Philippine Coast Guard, donations of hybrid technology vehicles, control center and facilities for a new communications, navigation and surveillance air traffic management system in Manila, Pasig-Marikina River Channel Improvement Project, second phase of the Plaridel Bypass Road Project, Grant-Aid for the Community Development in Conflict-Affected Areas in Mindanao, Grant-Aid for the Programme for the Rehabilitation and Recovery from Typhoon Yolanda, and the Grassroots Human Security Projects for the provinces of Maguindanao and Sorsogon.
As a result of the regular meetings convened by the high-level committee, loan agreements for three flagship infrastructure projects of the Duterte administration have already been signed. These are the 1) 9.39 billion yen loan for the third phase of Arterial Road Bypass Project in Bulacan, 2) 104.53 billion yen loan for the first phase of the Metro Manila Subway Project, and 3) 2-billion yen grant for the Programme for the Support for Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Marawi City and Its Surrounding Areas.