January 22, 2019
Finance Secretary Carlos Domiguez (left) and JICA Southeast Asia and Pacific Department Director General Shigenori Ogawa (right) at the loan agreement signing ceremony for the North-South Commuter Railway Extension Project and the Pasig-Marikina River Channel Improvement Project Phase IV
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Philippine Government through the Department of Finance (DOF) signed this week a combined total of 205 billion yen Official Development Assistance (ODA) for the North-South Commuter Railway Extension (NSCR-Ex) Project and the Pasig-Marikina River Channel Improvement Project Phase IV as support to the Philippine government's collective vision for a stable, comfortable, and secure life for all Filipinos.
The NSCR-Ex Project with the Department of Transportation (DOTR) is an extension of the ongoing JICA-funded NSCR project which runs from Malolos to Tutuban. The 51-km North extension will run from Malolos in Bulacan to Clark International Airport in Pampanga, while the 55-km South extension will run from Solis, Manila to Calamba, Laguna. The two extension lines will strengthen the Philippine mass transport network to address the rising transportation demand in Mega Manila.
Meanwhile, the Pasig-Marikina River Channel Improvement Project Phase IV with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) aims to mitigate flood damages in Metro Manila that is vulnerable to storm or typhoon-related disasters. Metro Manila is home to one-eighth (or 12.87 million, 2015 data) of the country's population. Its location along the coastal low-lying area poses flood risks among residents. The Pasig-Marikina River at the center of Manila also contributes largely to the city's flooding when the riverbank overflows.
JICA Southeast Asia and Pacific Department Director General Shigenori Ogawa and DOF Secretary Carlos Dominguez led the signing of the loan agreements recently. The ODA loan for NSCR-Ex will finance the consulting services, rolling stocks, and electro-mechanical portions of the project. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will also co-finance the project covering the NSCR civil works portion. Meanwhile, development assistance for the Pasig-Marikina River Channel Improvement Project will use Japanese flood mitigation technology and reduce flood level at the Sto. Nino/Marikina Bridge.
"We are working closely with stakeholders in the Philippine transport system and other international development institutions like ADB to address challenges in the Philippine mass transport system, boost the country's competitiveness, and distribute growth to nearby areas outside Metro Manila," said Ogawa. "Also, we continue to support the vulnerable sector through our flood control project in the Pasig-Marikina River to help build the Philippines' disaster resilience, and sustain economic growth."
The Philippines is one of Asia's dynamic countries to date, with its GDP average at 6% for the past years. However, it faces challenges like rapid urbanization and lack of efficient transport systems. Population in Metro Manila alone has risen to over 12 million in 2015.
The construction of the NSCR-Ex Project is expected to commence in 2019, targeting partial operations in 2022. The project will introduce Japanese railway system that uses energy-efficient and reliable trains. The technical aspects will also complement the ongoing NSCR Malolos to Tutuban Project that adopts Japanese technology on flood resilient and anti-seismic design to withstand earthquake.
The NSCR-Ex Project is one of the key infrastructure projects supported by Japan under the Philippine Government's Build, Build, Build program, in addition to the Metro Manila Subway and Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3 Rehabilitation projects. JICA has been supporting the Philippines' railway sector for many years now, including the expansion of Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line 1, now being extended to Cavite, and the construction of LRT Line 2, which is now extended to Masinag, Antipolo under the Capacity Enhancement of Mass Transit Systems in Metro Manila Project.
On the other hand, the Pasig-Marikina River Channel Improvement Project Phase IV is a continuation of JICA's earlier assistance to improve the engineering design of Pasig River. Initiatives to improve the river channel form part of a 1990 masterplan for flood control and drainage improvement in Metro Manila, another technical assistance from JICA. The third phase of the project, completed in 2018, helped restore the ecological balance and reduce flood risks in the river's major tributaries.