By Chino S. Leyco
CLARK, Pampanga – The Duterte administration will begin the full-blast rehabilitation of the war-torn Marawi City next month after the Philippines and Japan sealed a loan agreement for the construction and improvement of roads in Mindanao’s conflict-affected areas.
Officials of the Philippines and Japan signed late Tuesday an agreement on a $202.04-million loan from the Japanese government to fund the road developments in the Bangsamoro autonomous region, including the city of Marawi.
Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar said the national government is “well on our way” to implement the masterplan for the Marawi City’s rehabilitation program following the signing of the $200-million loan, which is an addition to the grant that was also provided by Japan.
“Of course there are challenges on the ground like the possible presence of improvised explosive devices but that being said a full-blown feasibility study masterplan is signed now is being funded,” Villar said. “The full implementation will be on full blast by July this year.”
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said the loan aims to reinvigorate local economies and reduce poverty in Mindanao communities by linking them to the region’s trade centers, thus improving accessibility and the smooth flow of goods and services to and from these areas.
Signing the loan accord for the Road Network Development Project in Conflict-Affected Areas in Mindanao (RNDP) were Dominguez on behalf of the Philippines and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Senior Vice President Yasushi Tanaka on behalf of the Japanese government.
This agreement was signed at the conclusion of the 8th meeting of the Philippines-Japan Joint Committee on Infrastructure Development and Economic Cooperation.
The loan amount includes funding for consulting services and civil works that will involve the construction and improvement of about 176.6 kilometers (km) of access roads, including 19.8 km of the Marawi Ring Road and 23 km of the Marawi Trans-Central Road, according to JICA.
Besides inking this new loan agreement, Dominguez said Japanese and Philippine officials also committed to work towards the signing within this year of a supplemental loan for the ongoing Davao City bypass construction project, and three more loan accords for the New Mactan bridge construction project in Cebu.
The second phase of the Metro Manila priority bridges seismic improvement project, and the second tranche loan for the first phase of the Metro Manila Subway Project are also expected to be signed before the end of the year.
Chairing the Philippine side during the meeting were Dominguez and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, while Hiroto Izumi, special advisor to Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, led the Japanese delegation.
Dominguez said that during the meeting, the two sides also discussed their joint strategy for future cooperation in anticipation of the Philippines’ elevation soon to upper middle-income country status.
As for the implementation of the Philippines’ infrastructure projects in cooperation with Japan, Dominguez said the two sides agreed to “maintain close coordination to resolve pending issues and revisit certain procedures in order to deliver fast and sure action towards achieving our timelines.”
Dominguez said the two sides also reviewed the progress of the Philippines’ railway projects that will be rolled out in cooperation with Japan and committed to continue consultations to accelerate their implementation and address challenges involving such projects.
The conduct of feasibility studies for the Dalton Pass East Alignment Alternative Road Project, subject to certain requirements, and the Circumferential Road 3 Project Missing Link Project will be done later this year, Dominguez said.
Dominguez said that after briefing the Japanese officials on the milestones reached in the Mindanao peace process following the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, the latter reaffirmed Japan’s commitment to enhance assistance to Mindanao, and expressed willingness to provide additional aid for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Most Affected Area (MAA) in Marawi City.
“Today’s discussions were intensive and fruitful, as the previous meetings of this committee have been,” Dominguez said. “We thank Dr. Hiroto Izumi, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister Abe, for his keen interest in seeing the speedy completion of the cooperation projects.”
The discussions between the two sides also covered broad areas of Japan-Philippines sectoral cooperation, including regional development; information and communications technology; energy; environment; public safety; and disaster prevention,” Dominguez said.