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Japan’s cooperation in railway projects in Mega Manila

When Prime Minister Abe met with President Duterte in January 2017, the Prime Minister stated that he places “top priority on Japan-Philippines relations” and that Japan would provide the Philippines one trillion yen (450 billion pesos) for cooperation over the next five years with both Official Development Assistance (ODA) and private-sector investment.

Japan’s ODA to the Philippines thus far has amounted to over 3.24 trillion yen in total (approximately 1.48 trillion pesos) including loans and grants, making Japan by far the largest ODA provider for the Philippines. Japan’s ODA covers a broad range of areas from infrastructure to agriculture, education, environment, counter-terrorism, disaster risk reduction, human resource development, fight against illegal drugs, and peace and development in Mindanao such as through J-BIRD (Japan-Bangsamoro Initiative for Reconstruction and Development). Yet, in this column, due to space limitations, I would like to focus on Japan’s contribution to railway infrastructure development in Mega Manila.

Severe traffic congestion in Mega Manila is a major challenge for the Philippines’ sustainable economic growth. Aside from the fact that ordinary Filipinos feel frustrated about the amount of time required for daily travel, a report by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) found that road traffic costs the Philippine economy 2.4 billion pesos per day. Furthermore, severe traffic conditions adversely affect the environment and people’s health. As one of the top priority areas to be tackled with, Japan is honored to work together with the Philippine government to address this major challenge.

Leveraging Japan’s state of the art railway technology and know-how, Japan is committed to the development of high quality railway systems in Mega Manila through providing support to two massive railway projects: the Metro Manila Subway Project and the Philippine National Railway (PNR) Commuter Railway Project.

The Metro Manila Subway Project will connect major business districts and government centers in National Capital Region. It is approximately 25 km in length in the first phase and will have 13 stations from Mindanao Avenue in Quezon City to the FTI station in Taguig, with possible connection to Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). The PNR Railway Project is roughly 170 km in length and will connect Clark International Airport and Los Baños in Laguna.  As for the section between Tutuban in Manila and Malolos in Bulacan, which is approximately 38 km in length, Station Marking Ceremony was already held in June and a procurement process will soon begin. As for the rest, detailed design is going to be conducted shortly. Currently, two Governments are working closely so as to mark significant progress when Prime Minister Abe visits the Philippines in November on the occasion of ASEAN related summit meetings. Once operationalized, these railways are expected to provide fast, safe, punctual, and environmentally friendly transportation services. Moreover, they will significantly mitigate traffic congestion, expand the Mega Manila economic sphere, and improve the Philippine investment climate, benefiting millions of Filipinos.  

Japan’s support is unique in the sense that Japan seeks to provide comprehensive support through human-to-human contact. No need to mention that both Japanese and Philippine companies are expected to participate in these railway projects. Japan sweats together with the Philippines in conducting preparatory study, developing a plan, and implementing the plan. Japan not only helps build reliable, high quality railways, but also recognizes the importance of knowledge and technological transfer. As such, for the long-term success of the railway projects, Japan emphasizes the importance of working together and providing training to people. Japan’s assistance to the development of railways in Mega Manila is just one example of how Japan considers the Philippines as an important friend and how Prime Minister Abe places “top priority on Japan-Philippines relations.”

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(Kazuhide Ishikawa is the Japanese Ambassador)


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