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Philippines, Japan to execute 3 mega infra projects, says Pernia

The Philippines and Japan have agreed to do at least three mega infrastructure projects, a result of the official visit of Filipino Cabinet officials in Tokyo this week, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said Thursday.

"We covered about 14 projects. The three mega projects that I mentioned, they are going to be implemented," Pernia told reporters on the sidelines of a signing ceremony between the Philippines and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in Pasig City.

The projects include the speed train connecting Subic in Zambales and Clark in Pampanga, the commuter rail connecting Tutuban in Manila and Las Baños in Laguna, and the Metro Manila Subway System.

A Cabinet-level delegation met with Japanese officials in Tokyo on March 27 to discuss a list of infrastructure projects to be implemented in cooperation with Japan.

The Subic-Clark speed train will be the first bullet train in the Philippines. It could reach speeds of around 200 kilometers per hour (km/h).

Japan's iconic bullet trains or shinkansen can run up to speeds of more than 300 km/h.

The commuter railway system connecting Manila and Laguna was earlier proposed as public-private partnership (PPP) initiative under the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III.

The proposed North-South Railway Project (NSRP) was envisioned to connect Tutuban, Manila and Calamba, Laguna at an estimated cost of P170.7 billion

This is the second phase of the North-South Commuter Railway (NCSR) Project connecting Malolos, Bulacan to Tutuban, Manila and funded by a P93-billion commitment also from Japan.

Part of the three mega projects to be implemented is the Metro Manila Subway System, earlier dubbed as the Mass Transit System Loop or Light Rail Transit Line 5.

It would have been the most expensive PPP under the Aquino administration with an indicative cost of P374.5 billion, but was taken off the pipeline as officials noted the talks on the subway's final alignment were taking too long.

The subway system will connect the cities of Makati, Pasay and Taguig.

NEDA Undersecretary Rolando G. Tungpalan said the scope of the 14 projects, including the three "mega" projects, will be determined by feasibility studies.

"Bottom line is we have a very good support from the Japanese ... Estimated costs –  they are now being defined in the feasibility studies," he said.

Tungpalan said the project financing could be under several options such as official development assistance or ODA, as well as loan grants, depending on the results of the feasibility studies.

Tungpalan said more projects in cooperation with Japan will be revealed in November, when Japanese officials are in the country for the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) 50th Anniversary Celebration.

During the official visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the Philippine in January, Japan pledged ¥1 trillion of ODA and private sector investments aimed at creating business opportunities in the Philippines over the next five years.

Tungpalan on Thursday, however, said the total may be more than ¥1 trillion. "'Di ba sabi nila one trillion? We said, 'We would like to get a larger portion'."

He added that the Philippine government will make sure the proposals would consist of "quality" projects fit for Japanese funding. — VDS, GMA News