Japan brings subway and new railway to Metro Manila
DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Koji Haneda (The Philippine Star) - December 27, 2018 - 12:00am

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas day with families and loved ones. It is the season for families to reunite and celebrate together, but it has also become the season to remind the people of heavy traffic, especially in Metro Manila. Hence, I am delighted to share with you the good news that Japanese railway projects, the Metro Manila Subway and the North-South Commuter Railway, are expected to significantly mitigate congestion. Once fully operationalized, the Subway will connect Quirino Highway in Quezon City to the FTI station in Taguig in as fast as 30 minutes.

The Metro Manila Subway is the first of its kind in the Philippines and the largest of the Duterte Administration’s 75 flagship projects. The Subway will stretch 30km connecting major business districts in Metro Manila from Quirino Highway to FTI, with a branch line to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. With Japan’s tunnel boring machines, the construction will be done with minimum impact on traffic on the ground. Its groundbreaking is expected early next year. Its partial operation (3 stations) is targeted in 2022 and full operation in 2025.

The North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR) has also progressed this year. Japan’s cooperation for the NSCR’s extension was formalized through the Exchange of Notes in November, extending its original route between Malolos and Tutuban northward to Clark and southward to Calamba. With the extension, the NSCR’s total length becomes 150km. Its groundbreaking is expected in the first quarter next year. Having a maximum operation speed of 160km/hour, travel time from Clark to Manila will be reduced to one hour. Stations will also be renovated to modern stations with spacious platforms and escalators to help solve congestion inside the stations.

For these railway projects, Japan’s advanced technologies, including seismic design, flood damage control measure, integrated control system, and train cars with cutting-edge technology, will be fully utilized to ensure fast, safe, punctual, and environment-friendly transportation services.

Japan’s support is unique in the sense that we not only cooperate in the construction of hard infrastructure, but also assist in capacity development. Human resource development is crucial for long-term success, so Japan will support the establishment of the Philippine Railway Institute to train Filipino personnel on railway operation, management and maintenance through Japan’s top railway operators’ know-how and technology. We plan to open training courses at existing facilities in the first half of 2019, and the construction of the Institute itself is expected to be completed by 2021.

These railway projects are funded by Japan with generous Special Terms for Economic Partnership or STEP loan. Under this financing scheme, loans are extended with 0.1 percent interest for the construction of railway systems and 0.01 percent for consulting services, with 12 years of grace period and 40 years of repayment period.

This scheme serves as an avenue for collaboration and technology transfer between Japanese and Filipino companies. Only 30 percent of the money will go to Japanese contractors while almost 70 percent will go to non-Japanese, mostly Filipino companies. Japan emphasizes this kind of mutual cooperation coupled with human resource development and technology transfer as essential factors for the long-term success of the Philippines’ railway sector.

When I was last posted in Manila in the early 1980s, it was possible to have a drink at Manila Hotel after work and then have dinner in Quezon City. It may be possible again with the railway. I hope these railway projects will significantly mitigate traffic congestion and contribute to a more comfortable commuting experience for Filipinos.

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(Koji Haneda is the Ambassador of Japan to the Philippines)

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