RP, Japan affirm infra cooperation

Top officials of the Philippines and Japan agreed Monday to “steadily implement” for the next five years their joint commitments on  major fields of bilateral cooperation, particularly on the implementation of the Duterte administration’s big-ticket infrastructure projects that Tokyo has pledged to support through funding and technology assistance.

During the fourth meeting of the Philippines-Japan Joint Committee on Infrastructure Development and Economic Cooperation held at the Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort here, both sides also agreed “to work towards the partial operability by 2022 of, and are looking forward to the signing of the first tranche of the loan for, the Metro Manila Subway Project (Phase I) by March 2018.”

The Philippine side in the Joint Committee was headed by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Secretary Ernesto Pernia of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), while the Japanese delegation was headed by Dr. Hiroto Izumi, who is a Special Advisor to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

In his opening statement, Dominguez said that the bilateral cooperation with Japan complements the Philippine government’s economic growth strategies. He added that “by using Japanese technologies and expertise, we aim to build safe and resilient structures and communities.”

Dominguez described the meeting held this morning as a “fruitful” one, as he underscored how Japan shares the Philippine government’s “great sense of urgency “to see shovels at the ground and complete the major projects at the soonest feasible time.”

During the meeting, both sides also presented measures to speed up the implementation of the Philippines’ infrastructure projects that Tolyo has committed to support, and also confirmed “the updated candidate list of projects, including new projects proposed for Japanese loan/grant financing.”

“The Philippine side discussed the progress on the right-of-way acquisition and land resettlement, institutional arrangements on procurement, establishment of Project Monitoring Offices, budget allocation for government counterpart and measures to address cross-sectoral concerns,” read the statement of DOF on the high-level meeting.

Japan, for its part, presented measures to “fast-track project/loan processing and implementation,” which include shortening the review period for procurement, and providing grant support for the conduct of advance works for the detailed design of the projects.

The Philippine and Japan governments will also “continue to have consultations at the working level to accelerate implementation and address challenges” for the railway projects that were presented for Japanese financing.

“Allow me to to take this opportunity to thank Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for his intense interest in seeing the cooperation projects undertaken at the soonest feasible time,” Dominguez said.

He also said both sides look forward to the signing of the Exchange of Notes for the grant financing for the Davao City Waste-to-Energy project, as well as the loan financing packages for the Pasig-Marikina Channel Improvement Project, Phase IV and the MRT-3 Rehabilitation and Improvement Project “in the coming months and after all internal approvals are completed.”

For the PNR North 2 (Malolos-Clark) and PNR South Commuter (Manila-Los Baños) railway lines, they agreed to continue trilateral consultations on the co-financing of the projects among the Philippine government, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in order to achieve partial operations of the North-South rail section by 2022.  (DOF)