Philippines, Japan tackle closer cooperation on ‘Build, Build, Build’ projects
HAKONE?High-level Philippine and Japanese officials discussed on Friday the continuing partnership between their countries in implementing infrastructure flagship projects under President Rodrigo Duterte's "Build, Build, Build" program, including their future strategy for cooperation in view of the Philippines’ expected ascent to upper middle-income status next year.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, who led the Philippine delegation to the 9th High-Level Meeting of the Philippines-Japan Joint Committee on Infrastructure Development and Economic Cooperation, said the two countries also focused their discussions on Japan’s support for the Mindanao peace process. Hiroto Izumi, the Special Advisor to Japan Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, led the Japanese side.
Izumi said the meeting aims to enrich the cooperation program between the Philippines and Japan and monitor the progress of projects for bilateral cooperation.
Both sides discussed their sectoral cooperation on other areas, including disaster risk management, “which proves to be important in light of the increasingly frequent natural disasters," Dominguez said.
The town of Hakone, the venue of this year’s meeting, is recovering from the onslaught of Typhoon Hagibis that struck last October, while the Philippines’ southern island of Mindanao recently suffered a series of devastating earthquakes.
The Philippine side acknowledged the technical assistance provided by Japan for ongoing “Build, Build, Build” projects, as well as its commitment to extend additional technical assistance that are critical to the Philippines’ campaign to bridge the infrastructure financing gap.
The two sides also discussed the loan financing arrangements for the Philippines as it transitions to Upper Middle Income Country status ahead of schedule in 2020.
Dominguez recognized that the support of the government of Japan “has been instrumental to the achievement of this milestone.”
According to Dominguez, the regular meetings of the Committee, alternating between venues in the Philippines and Japan, is part of the “fast and sure” approach adopted by the two countries to ensure the smooth and swift implementation of the Japan-funded projects under the “Build, Build, Build” program.
The two sides also welcomed the progress of the railway projects in the Philippines that the Duterte administration is implementing in cooperation with Japan.
“We are also starting to see the development of our cooperation from planning to the actual construction of our big-ticket projects like the Metro Manila Subway Project, and the ADB-co-financed North-South Commuter Railway Project,” Dominguez said during the meeting.
Dominguez also informed Izumi and the other Japanese officials at the meeting that the two countries are to sign the 4.409 billion yen supplemental loan agreement for the Metro Manila Priority Seismic Bridge Improvement Project in the coming months.
Both sides confirmed to work towards the signing of the exchange of notes and the loan agreement for a supplemental loan to finance the ongoing Davao City Bypass Construction Project (DCBCP).
The Japanese side expressed its intention to conduct pre-feasibility studies for four of the Philippines' priority projects, namely: 1) the Cebu Circumferential Road, 2) Second San Juanico Bridge and Access Road, 3) Central Mindanao Highway (Cagayan de Oro-Malaybay Section), and 4) Agusan del Norte-Butuan City Logistical Highway (4th Butuan Bridge.)
Both sides also confirmed to speed up the formulation of the Central Mindanao Highway Project (Cagayan de Oro-Malaybalay Section), as a candidate for Japanese official development assistance (ODA).
They also committed to closely coordinate in finalizing the regional development master plan for Subic Bay and its surrounding areas "at the soonest possible time".
The Japanese side reiterated its intention to provide a loan under the Special Terms for Economic Partnership (STEP) financing program for the Cebu-Mactan Bridge and Coastal Road Construction Project and discussed with its Philippine counterparts the progress of the Dalton Pass East Alignment Alternative Road Project, particularly the commencement of this project’s feasibility study which is being financed through a grant from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
Japan reaffirmed its readiness to enhance its assistance to the Philippines for the development of Mindanao, and provide additional technical aid to the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) and the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Most Affected Areas (MAA) in Marawi City.
The Philippines, in turn, expressed its appreciation for Japan’s continued support to the Mindanao peace process and development, especially the assistance it has extended for Marawi’s speedy rehabilitation and reconstruction.
Both sides discussed, too, the developments on the following areas of bilateral sectoral cooperation: a) Regional Development; b) Information and Communications Technology (National Broadband Plan, Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting and Cybersecurity); c) Energy; d) Environment; f) Public Safety (anti-illegal drug measures, maritime safety and satellite assets); and g) Disaster Risk Reduction and Management.
During the meeting, Japan welcomed the substantial progress made in the settlement of the value-added tax (VAT)-related concerns it had raised earlier with Philippine officials.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Dominguez, representing the Philippine government, and Izumi, on behalf of Japan, signed the memorandum of cooperation signifying the latter’s commitment to provide technical support to the Duterte administration’s formulation of a regional development master plan designed to maximize the economic potentials of the Subic Bay and its surrounding areas. DMS