By Emmie Abadilla
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is supporting five priority railway projects of the Duterte administration with a total loan commitment of 595 billion yen (approximately P285 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), jump-started the construction of the railway projects to expand Metro Manila’s current 79-kilometer railway lines to 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 could help address growing passenger demand and attract investments, according to JICA.
“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,” JICA Philippines Senior Representative Kiyo Kawabuchi pointed out.
“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.”
The JICA is the executing agency of Japanese ODA, which handles technical cooperation, ODA loans, and investment, grant aid, as well as cooperation volunteers and disaster relief programs.
JICA is the world’s largest bilateral aid agency with its volume of cooperation amounting to about USD 19.57 billion for JFY 2017 and a worldwide network of about 100 overseas offices including the Philippines.
Railway projects form part of the transport interventions identified in the JICA 2014 study Roadmap for Transport Infrastructure Development for Metro Manila which the Philippine government adopted.
Aside from railways, the roadmap identified developing urban roads, expressways, and traffic management 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 P3.5 billion transportation costs due to traffic.
JICA supports several infrastructure projects of the government, including the Metro Manila Subway Project, and the LRT Line Extension Projects.
To date, design studies for the Metro Manila Subway Project are ongoing. JICA also supports the implementation of the NSCR Project, while the rehabilitation and maintenance of the MRT-3 is already being implemented.
The agency likewise supports capacity building in railway management under the ongoing Philippine Railway Institute (PRI) project. The PRI will act as a training center for railway operators in the country.
“Japan is sharing its knowledge on safety and stable train operation technology that we improved from our experience with past accidents,” according to Hideharu Igarashi, the Japanese expert dispatched to the DOTr.
“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.”
Japan has one of the highest shares of rail users in the world, with 30 percent 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.
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.