MANILA, Philippines – The Japanese government has vowed to provide a ¥240-billion (about $2-billion) loan to the Philippines for the first phase of the the North-South Commuter Rail (NSCR) project, the 36.7-kilometer railway from Tutuban in Manila to Malolos in Bulacan.
This is the largest loan package of the Japanese government to a development partner, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Thursday, August 6.
DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario received a pledge for an official development assistance (ODA) package for the NSCR Phase 1 during a meeting with Japan State Minister for Foreign Affairs Minoru Kiuchi on Wednesday, August 5, on the sidelines of the ASEAN Ministerial and Related Meetings in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
“The North-South Commuter Rail (NSCR) Project Phase 1 is poised to be the single-biggest ODA yen loan package to date that Japan has given any development partner,” Del Rosario said.
The NSCR, which the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) will implement, involves the construction of a 36.7-kilometer narrow-gauge elevated commuter railway from Malolos to Tutuban.
The ODA pledge follows the commitment of the Japanese government in firming up its cooperation with the Philippines for the Philippines-Japan “Cooperation Roadmap for Quality Infrastructure Development in the Transport Sector in Metropolitan Manila Area.”
This cooperation roadmap was agreed upon during President Benigno Aquino III’s state visit to Japan from June 2 to 5.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said in a statement: “We welcome the pledge of the government of Japan for Phase 1 of the North-South Commuter Rail. The ODA package would be a boon to our ongoing efforts to improve and modernize our public transport system.”
According to Coloma, the ODA package is a “firm testament to the robust bilateral relations between the Philippines and Japan.”
Japan is already the largest source of official aid to the Philippines.
Japan and the Philippines also discussed “closer security cooperation, including the acceleration of discussions for an agreement on the transfer of defense equipment and technology,” the foreign department statement said, without elaborating.
The cash-strapped Philippines has been seeking military aid including surplus equipment from its foreign allies to help modernize its military.
The two countries that are locked in territorial disputes with China have strengthened their cooperation on defense in a bid to counterbalance Beijing’s regional clout.
Japan has a maritime row with China over islands in the East China Sea, while the Philippines has its own increasingly tense conflict with Beijing in the South China Sea.
Beijing’s island building in the Sea has dominated the meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Kuala Lumpur this week.
Secretary del Rosario also expressed appreciation for Japan’s continuing support for the Mindanao Peace Process including through the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiative for Reconstruction Development project. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com
¥1 = $0.008