June 26, 2019
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) lauded the Philippine Government's efforts to fast track its railway projects, citing the role of infrastructure in national development by building the north-south backbone of Metro Manila and nearby areas, and developing new growth centers.
JICA is currently supporting five priority railway projects of the Duterte administration with a total loan commitment amounting to around JPY 595 billion. This covers the first tranche of the Metro Manila Subway Project, North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR) Project (and the first tranche of the Extension Project), Metro Rail Transit Line 3 Rehabilitation Project, Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line 1 Cavite Extension Project, and LRT Line 2 East Extension Project.
The Philippine Government, through the Department of Transportation (DOTr), has jumpstarted the construction of said railway projects, eyed to expand Metro Manila's current 79-kilometer railway lines to as much as 244 kilometers including links to surrounding areas. Major cities in the world like Tokyo, Seoul, New York, and London have as much as 400 to 800 kilometers of railways to keep up with urbanization and enhance mobility. The Philippines' ongoing railway projects, JICA added, could therefore help address growing passenger demand and attract relevant investments into the country.
"JICA's Official Development Assistance (ODA) in the railway sector aims to impact on wealth being distributed to other areas outside Metro Manila through investments and jobs. Once completed, these transport infrastructure projects will help realize the shared vision of JICA and the Philippines towards reduced traffic congestion, seamless mobility, and better quality of life of many Filipinos," said JICA Philippines Senior Representative Kiyo Kawabuchi.
For his part, DOTr Secretary Arthur P. Tugade expressed gratitude to JICA for its continuing support to the Duterte administration's vision of enhanced mobility and connectivity for Filipinos.
"Our partnership with Japan, through JICA, will be remembered in history as the cornerstone of modern Philippine railway infrastructure development. It is my hope that this partnership endures, as we transport the Filipino from the present to the future," DOTr Secretary Tugade said.
The railway projects form part of the transport interventions identified in the JICA 2014 study Roadmap for Transport Infrastructure Development for Metro Manila adopted by the Philippine government. Aside from railways, said roadmap identified developing urban roads, expressways, and traffic management as among the critical priorities to decongest traffic, and expand economic opportunities. In 2017, the JICA Follow Up Survey on the Roadmap cited that the Build Build Build program of the government could help curb the PhP3.5 billion transportation costs due to traffic. JICA is supporting several infrastructure projects under said program including the Metro Manila Subway Project, LRT Line Extension Projects among others.
To date, design studies for the Metro Manila Subway Project are ongoing. Likewise, JICA currently supports the implementation of the NSCR Project, while the rehabilitation and maintenance of the MRT-3 is already being implemented.
Moreover, JICA underscored its support to build the capacity of the Philippines in railway management under the ongoing Philippine Railway Institute (PRI) project. The PRI will act as a training center for railway operators in the Philippines.
Japanese expert dispatched to the DOTr Hideharu Igarashi said, "Japan is sharing its knowledge on safety and stable train operation technology that we improved from our experience with past accidents. We are also sharing our best practices on how quality railway infrastructure can also mean more people commuting via trains and good revenues for non-rail businesses."
Igarashi said Japan has one of the highest share of rail users in the world, with 30% of commuters in Greater Tokyo taking the train, or more than 2 million passengers during the morning peak hours. This is higher than railway commuting in European countries like Switzerland and Austria to cite a few.
Meanwhile, this also meant that property development, catering and retail sectors in Japan consequently benefitted from its robust railway sector.
He stressed, however, that "to provide the safe and sustainable rail transport is the first priority and obviously an essential condition to realize them."
JICA, the world's largest bilateral aid agency and a trusted development partner of the Philippines, has supported transport infrastructure development in the Philippines specifically railways since the 1970s through diesel-electric railcars for the Philippine National Railway (PNR), and early capacity expansion of the LRT Lines 1 and 2 to cite a few.