Subway project a testament to PH-Japan enduring friendship

Published June 14, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin

President Rodrigo Duterte expressed the Filipino people’s deep gratitude to the Japanese government on Independence Day as he witnessed the lowering of the Tunnel Boring Machine that would be used for the country’s first-ever subway project aimed at easing severe traffic congestion in Metro Manila. The 27-kilometer project links Valenzuela City in the north to the Food Terminal, Inc. in Taguig City in the south. Passing through Quezon City, Pasig City, and Makati City using the C-5 route, express travel time is estimated at just over 30 minutes.

“I can’t seem to fathom the love of the Japanese people for this Republic. There are so many projects in the country and being pushed and sponsored by the JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency). Para bang isang probinsya tayo (It’s like we are a province). We are being treated as almost a part of Japan that should be developed in due time,” he added.

Last February, the Philippines and Japan signed the 253.3-billion-yen (₱112.1 billion) loan agreement for the Metro Manila Subway Project Phase 1. This is the second tranche of the official development assistance loan. The first tranche of 104.53 billion yen was signed in March 2018. The loan has a concessional interest rate of 0.1 percent per annum and is payable for 28 years after a grace period of 12 years, prompting President Duterte to remark: “Pag ganoon ang obligasyon mo, it is really gratis na ‘yan (If that is your obligation, then it is really like gratis already). It’s a gift from the Japanese people to the people of the Philippines.”

For past 20 years, Japan has contributed $14.14 billion worth of loans or over 72 percent of the country’s foreign aid portfolio, according to the Department of Finance. An official development assistance (ODA) map published by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) vividly portrays the comprehensive extent of Japanese support. JICA is currently implementing 80 projects in cooperation with national government agencies and local government units covering areas such as: governance, economic infrastructure, investment promotion and economic development, disaster risk reduction and management, agriculture and agribusiness development, environment and energy, health and social development, as well as peace and development initiatives in Mindanao that have helped more than 25,300 farmer-beneficiaries.

JICA reports that among the other ongoing major infrastructure projects, mostly focused on railway infrastructure for mass transportation are: Capacity Enhancement for Mass Transit Systems in Metro Manila, North-South Commuter Railway Project (Malolos-Tutuban and Malolos-Clark-Blumentritt), and technical assistance for the Philippine Railway Institute.

Japan has also provided complementary assistance on capacity-building to bring about technology transfer and enable project beneficiaries — both institutional and individual — to sustain and replicate the projects and programs in more communities.

As President Duterte aptly observed: “Our commitment and resolve show the desire to expand cooperative ties further. I dare say that considering what we have accomplished and achieved, the Philippines and Japan are building a golden age [for] our strategic partnership.”