By Roy Mabasa
The Philippines and Japan have inked a 9.399 billion yen (roughly P4.6 billion) loan agreement for the construction of the third and final phase of the Arterial Road Bypass Project — a 24.61-kilometer road connecting the North Luzon Expressway in Balagtas, Bulacan with the Maharlika Highway in San Rafael, Bulacan.
The third phase of the project involves the upgrading and expansion of the existing bypass road from two-lane to four-lane carriageway national road.
And just like the first two phases of the project, signed in 2004 and 2012, respectively and involved a total of 10.9 billion yen or roughly US$96.5 million, the final phase was also financed under Japanese Official Development Assistance (ODA) loans through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the executing agency of Japanese ODA, which handles technical cooperation, ODA loans and investment, and grant aid, as well as cooperation volunteers and disaster relief programs.
Phase 1 (construction of 14.65-km two-lane bypass road from North Luzon Expressway Balagtas Exit) was completed in November 2012 while Phase 2 (9.96-km bypass road from Phase 1 to PJFH in San Rafael, Bulacan) is nearing completion and is expected to be inaugurated in May of this year.
The loan agreement for the final stage of the project carries an interest rate of 1.5 percent per annum for nonconsulting services and 0.01 percent for consulting services, with a maturity period of 30 years, inclusive of 10-year grace period.
According to the Japanese Embassy in the Philippines, the areas linked by this bypass road are among the most dynamic and therefore most congested since these are towns hosting new industrial estates and numerous agribusiness enterprises.
Furthermore, the area is a vital link in the food chain highly appreciated by the population of Bulacan province, thus the bypass road will complement the food route supplying Metro Manila.
JICA chief representative Susumu Ito reiterated JICA’s support to the Philippines’ Build Build Build program saying the arterial road bypass will “help create new growth centers outside Metro Manila and enhance mobility of many Filipinos.