Additional financing from Japan eyed

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    The Philippines will look into more opportunities to tap additional financing and technical support from Japan as the government plans to accelerate its “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program this year, the Department of Finance (DOF) said.

    Carlos Dominguez, DOF secretary, had a bilateral meeting with Toshimitsu Motegi, Japanese foreign affairs minister, yesterday at the DOF office building in Manila.

    Dominguez said he looks forward to more frequent consultations with the Japanese government in the coming period, as the Philippines continues on the path to rapid and inclusive economic growth.

    “As our ambitious ‘Build, Build, Build’ infrastructure program accelerates this year, we see more opportunities for financing and technical support from the government of Japan,” Dominguez said in his opening remarks.

    Motegi, in response, said the relationship between the Philippines and Japan under the leadership of President Duterte and Prime Minister Shinzō Abe is now at a “golden age” where both countries continue to enjoy broad-based and multi-layer development, including in the economy, infrastructure development, security, and people-to-people exchanges.

    “Under the recently launched Overseas Loan and Investment Initiative for Asean, we are ready to newly mobilize $3 billion from public and private sectors over the next three years, including a total of $1.2 billion in overseas loans and investments for Asean by JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency). Let us continue to jointly discuss how to formulate development projects that can be the subject under this initiative,” Motegi said.

    Motegi also reiterated Japan’s support for the Philippines’ “Build, Build, Build” program and welcomed the great progress on infrastructure development cooperation between the two countries.

    He added that support for Mindanao is another major pillar of Japan’s cooperation with the Philippines and offered support for the development of the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

    The DOF said in a statement Dominguez and Motegi met to discuss new areas of expanding the bilateral relationship between their two countries, the progress of the infrastructure projects under “Build, Build, Build” that are being implemented with funding and technical support from Japan, and other fields of economic cooperation.

    On the trilateral cooperation among the Philippines, Japan, and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Dominguez said he looks forward to continuing comprehensive partnership with the multilateral institution with the support of incoming ADB president Masatsugu Asakawa, who is set to assume the bank’s top post next week.

    Meanwhile, Dominguez attributed the Philippines’ economic gains, in part, to its strong partnership with Japan, which has significantly increased its official development assistance (ODA) to the country over the past few years as demonstrated by the 10 loan agreements signed between the two countries since the current administration assumed office in 2016.

    He also thanked Japan for its support in formulating a masterplan for the development of the Subic Bay area and its surrounding communities.

    “With the Memorandum of Cooperation for this commitment signed last month in Hakone, we look forward to Japan’s swift creation of the action plan for this project,” Dominguez said.

    “Given what we have achieved in developing the Clark special economic zone, I am confident that the full development of the Subic Bay will provide another important node for knowledge-based industries serving the whole of East Asia,” he added.

    To speed up the implementation of the big-ticket infrastructure projects being rolled out with Japanese funding support, Dominguez informed Motegi of the success of their two countries’ unique high-level mechanism and “fast and sure approach” of holding regular meetings to iron out issues concerning these projects.

    Through the Philippines-Japan High-Level Joint Committee on Infrastructure Development and Economic Cooperation, he said the approval process for the loan agreements between the two countries have been shortened by an average of three to four months.

    This top-level committee has so far held nine meetings, alternating between venues in Japan and the Philippines, since its creation in 2017. The ninth meeting was held in Hakone, Japan last month. Its 10th meeting is set in Bohol, where the new Bohol-Panglao International Airport was completed with Japan’s assistance.

    Ten loan accords have been signed thus far between Manila and Tokyo for the financing of the “Build, Build, Build” flagship projects and other priority initiatives.

    These are the agreements for the Maritime Safety Capability Improvement Project for the Philippine Coast Guard (Phase II); Harnessing Agribusiness Opportunities through Robust and Vibrant Entrepreneurship Supportive of Peaceful Transformation; Cavite Industrial Area Flood Risk Management Project; Arterial Road Bypass Project (Phase III) in Bulacan; New Bohol Airport Construction and Sustainable Environment Protection Project (II); Metro Rail Transit Line 3 Rehabilitation Project; Pasig-Marikina River Channel Improvement Project (Phase IV); North-South Commuter Railway Extension Project or NSCREP (1st tranche of loan); Metro Manila Subway Project (Phase I); and the Road Network Development Project in Conflict-Affected Areas in Mindanao.

    Japan is the country’s top provider of ODA loans and grants totaling $8.63 billion (46 percent share of the country’s total ODA loan portfolio) as of September 2019.