DAVAO CITY—Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has underscored the “generous support” extended by Japan in helping jumpstart the Philippines’ ambitious “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program, which is crucial to the fulfillment of President Duterte’s high and inclusive growth agenda.
Demonstrating Japan’s “steadfast commitment” to the “Build, Build, Build” program as well as the Philippines’ other priority initiatives is the signing of nine loan agreements between Manila and Tokyo since President Duterte assumed office in June 2016, Dominguez said.
Several of these agreements involving infrastructure projects, Dominguez said, were processed and approved in a short span of 3 to 4 months, in line with the “fast and sure” approach adopted by both countries.
“This demonstrates our shared commitment to work closely to ensure that the Filipino people get to benefit from these projects at reasonable costs and at the soonest possible time,” said Dominguez at the start of his bilateral meeting with Japan Foreign Minister Tarō Kōno held on the afternoon of February 10 (Sunday) at the Waterfront Insular Hotel here.
Minister Kōno, on his part, said that on top of further strengthening bilateral ties with the Philippines, the government of Japan also remains fully committed to support the Duterte administration’s peace-building efforts in Mindanao and is prepared to expand its assistance to ensure the success of the peace process.
“We welcome the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law after the plebiscite in January. We have been supporting this peace process in Mindanao for more than a decade and we are ready to expand support as advancement of this peace process progresses,” Kōno said.
On behalf of the Japanese government, Kōno also conveyed his sympathies to the victims injured by the terror attacks in Jolo last month.
“We strongly condemn any act of terror and that cannot be accepted and we would like to convey our sympathy towards the people and the government of the Philippines,” he said.
Dominguez said the loan agreements with a combined amount of JPY398.82 billion (about $3.63 billion or P189.92 billion) formalized between the Philippines and Japan since President Duterte assumed the presidency in 2016 are for the following projects:
· Maritime Safety Capability Improvement Project for the Philippine Coast Guard (Phase II);
· Harnessing Agribusiness Opportunities through Robust and Vibrant Entrepreneurship Supportive of Peaceful Transformation (HARVEST);
· 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 (1st tranche of loan); and
· Metro Manila Subway Project (Phase I), which is the single biggest venture under “Build, Build, Build.”
These loan agreements were signed between October 2016 and January 2019.
“Let me again thank the people and the Government of Japan for the strong support they have extended to our infrastructure modernization program and for being a steady force in our economic and development journey,” Dominguez said.
On the evening of February 9 (Saturday), President Duterte and Minister Kōno held a bilateral meeting to discuss various areas of cooperation between the Philippines and Japan at the Matina Enclaves here.
Minister Kōno and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. then signed on the morning of February 10 at the Marco Polo Hotel here the exchange of notes for the Road Network Development Project in Conflict-Affected Areas in Mindanao.
Dominguez said that over the years, Japan has been the Philippines’ top official development assistance (ODA) partner.
Department of Finance (DOF) data show that Japan is the No. 1 provider of ODA loans totaling US$5.84 billion (47.51 percent of the total)], and the No. 5 provider of ODA grants amounting to US$141.33M (6.28 percent of the total).
He said that since 2017, when the Philippines-Japan Joint Committee on Infrastructure Development and Economic Cooperation was first convened, six high-level meetings were already held to strengthen bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
“With frequent coordination meetings, our accomplishments in the last two years have been unprecedented,” Dominguez said. “We look forward to more productive discussions in the forthcoming seventh high-level meeting to be convened in Osaka, Japan later this month.”
Among the officials present at the meeting between Dominguez and Kōno were Philippine Ambassador to Japan Jose Laurel, Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Koji Haneda, DOF Undersecretary Mark Dennis Joven and Shigeki Takizaki, the Director-General/Assistant Minister, Southeast and Southwest Asian Affairs of Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
After the meeting, Dominguez, Locsin and Kōno, along with Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Ambassadors Haneda and Laurel attended the opening of the Consulate General of Japan in this city.
Also at the event were Secretary Carlito Galvez, the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process; Consul General Yoshiaki Miwa of Japan’s Davao consular office; Datu Abul Khayr Dangcal Alonto, chairman of the Mindanao Development Authority; and Aj Hajj Murad Ebrahim, chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)
Kōno said he hoped the opening of the Consulate General “would be a good springboard to enhance the bilateral relationship and close cooperation between Japan and Mindanao.”
The event, which marked the upgrading of Japan’s consular office in Davao to consulate-general status, featured the Kagami-biraki or a Sake Barrel-Breaking Ceremony to mark the occasion.
The Consulate-General of Japan in Davao will cover the following provinces: Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Bukidnon, Camiguin, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Occidental, Misamis Oriental, Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Occidental, Davao Oriental, Cotabato, Sarangani, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.
During the event, the government of Japan conferred the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette to retired Judge Antonina Oshita Escovilla, a second-generation Japanese descendant, who heads the Philippine Nikkeijin Kai, which is an organization dedicated to assisting persecuted Filipinos of Japanese descent.