Biggest Japan ODA eyed for PH’s first subway

By: Ben O. de Vera
Philippine Daily Inquirer
03:11 AM June 26, 2017

The Philippine government is eyeing to secure the biggest official development assistance (ODA) from Japan for the country’s first subway system that will serve Metro Manila and surrounding areas.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia told the Inquirer that an estimated $4.4 billion in ODA from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) was in the pipeline to finance the Mega Manila Subway Project.

To date, the largest ODA loan package provided by Jica to the Philippines was 241.9 billion yen or almost $2.42 billion for the $2.88-billion North-South Commuter Railway Project that would connect Tutuban in Manila to Malolos, Bulacan.

Pernia, who also heads state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), said the signing of the fresh ODA for the ambitious subway project would “hopefully be in November when Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe comes for the Asean Summit.”

Neda Undersecretary Rolando G. Tungpalan told the Inquirer that the loan amount would be finalized upon the completion of the project feasibility study by next month.

Tungpalan said the project and its planned ODA financing were of “high priority and will be tackled in a high-level bilateral meeting in July.”

Jica senior representative in the Philippines Tetsuya Yamada confirmed to the Inquirer that the project was still in the final process of the feasibility study, with the project cost and financing plan “yet to be examined closely.”

Yamada said it would be up to the Philippine government to decide if it would seek loan from Jica for the subway.

Last week, Pernia said the P230-billion first phase of the Mega Manila Subway would be among the nine infrastructure projects worth a total of more than P738 billion that were up for approval by President Duterte during the Neda Board meeting on June 27.

According to the government’s “Build, Build, Build” website, the Department of Transportation-led project would connect major business districts and government centers in the metropolis through a 25-kilometer underground mass transportation system linking Quezon City and Taguig City.

In its initial year of operations, it could serve about 370,000 passengers, complementing existing rail systems in Metro Manila such as the Light Rail Transit and Metro Rail Transit systems.

A separate Jica briefing paper in May showed that the entire subway could extend beyond Metro Manila to San Jose del Monte City, Bulacan up north and Dasmariñas City, Cavite down south.

Based on Jica’s roadmap study, the Mega Manila Subway could run up to 75 km with 23 stations.

So as not to disrupt activity above ground while rolling out the project, Jica said the plan was to undertake “underground construction adjacent to existing substructures.”

Given that Metro Manila is also prone to floods, the project will entail “application of water shut panels to prevent from inundation during heavy flooding,” Jica added.

The subway will also spur commercial activities through “non-railway facilities in front of and along underground stations,” according to Jica.