Philippines, Japan sign $202m loan deal for Mindanao road project in conflict areas
The Philippines and Japan on Tuesday signed a $202.04 million or about 21.9 billion yen loan agreement for the Road Network Development Project in conflict areas in Mindanao.
During the 8th Philippine-Japan High Level Joint Committee on Infrastructure Development and Economic Cooperation Meeting held in Clark, Pampanga, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III together with Dr. Hiroto Izumi, Special Advisor to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe signed the loan agreement.
This involves the construction, rehabilitation and improvement of a road network with a total length of 176.06 kilometers in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and its neighboring region.
The Department of Finance said 43 kilometers or a quarter of the total road length of the entire project will include Marawi City as part of Bangon Marawi Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Program (BMCRRP).
The roads to be built are Marawi railroads and the Marawi trans-central road phase 2 that will not only reduce travel time from Cotabato City to Iligan City by 37 minutes from the current five hours and 15 minutes by vehicles.
It will also help restore economic and social condition of Marawi which was damaged by fighting between the military and ISIS ( Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) -linked militants.
Implementation of the project is expected to start by the third quarter.
In a press briefing after the signing ceremony, Dominguez said their discussion covered broad areas of Philippines-Japan sectoral cooperation, including regional development, information and communications technology, energy, environment, public safety, disaster prevention and peace building initiatives in Mindanao.
“Today’s discussions were intensive and fruitful,” he said.
Dominguez thanked Izumi for his keen interest in seeing the speedy completion of the cooperation projects.
The Japanese government said they are willing to extend more help to the city of Marawi.
“With regards to the Marawi projects as you know, the Japanese government is the largest donor or source of funds for our Marawi rehabilitation and they mentioned today that if there is more needed they are willing to provide the funds,” he said.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said there are 12 National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) board-approved projects costing P1.26 trillion under Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA).
“That’s a huge number of projects… and these projects are moving fast and we want to get them deliver as soon as possible time before the end of this administration,” said Pernia.
Most big ticket projects were located in Mindanao.
“Based on the data on Gross Domestic Product, Mindanao has been neglected. We hope that with all these projects will raise the Gross Regional Domestic Product of the Mindanao regions. I think it’s going to happen with the completion of these projects,” said Pernia.
Public Works Secretary Mark Villar said now that $200 million loan for the Marawi masterplan is signed, he added they are now ready to implement President Rodrigo Duterte’s masterplan '' by July''.
Dominguez expressed his appreciation to the Japanese government.
“This structure that we have of meeting between every three and four months to make sure the projects are implemented fast and sure has really worked very well. And that to the large extent is because the great commitment of the government of Prime Minster (Shinzo) Abe and he assigns his special advisor here,” he said.
“In the end, it’s that the projects are done and the lesson here we have learned is that we really have intensive engagement with our funders and those who provide technical assistance,” he added.
Dominguez said their next meeting is scheduled on October. Ella Dionisio/DMS