The government of the Philippines and Japan signed on Wednesday the 9.399-billion yen loan agreement for the construction of the third phase of the Arterial Road Bypass Project that is designed to ease traffic congestion in Bulacan and spur economic growth in the province’s rural areas.
Signing the loan agreement (amounting to approximately $89 million or ₱4.25 billion) were Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III on behalf of the Philippines, and Susumu Ito, the chief representatives of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), on behalf of Japan.
The Philippines will provide counterpart funding of ₱1 billion or around 1.476 billion yen (equivalent to $15 million) for the project, which has a total cost of 10.87 billion yen or about ₱5.26 billion (approximately $104 million).
“[This is], in a word, an economically worthwhile investment. It symbolizes the economic calculation, immediacy of impact and long-term multiplier effects that we wish to see in all the ‘Build Build Build’ projects,” said Dominguez after signing the agreement with Ito at the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) main office in Ortigas Center, Pasig City.
On behalf of the Philippine government, Dominguez thanked JICA for its continued funding support for the construction of the road bypass as well as the flagship infrastructure projects of the Duterte administration, and assured it of the “efficiency in the use of the loans and urgency in the implementation of the projects.”
The Arterial Road Bypass, also known as the Plaridel Bypass is a 24.61-kilometer arterial road that will link the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) in Balagtas, Bulacan with the Philippine-Japan Friendship Highway, also called Maharlika Highway, in San Rafael, Bulacan. It will bypass the town proper of Plaridel and the urban areas of Pulilan, Baliuag, and San Rafael (all in Bulacan) along the existing Maharlika Highway.
“We are grateful for the generosity of the Japanese people through JICA and the Japanese government as well as the strong support you have extended to us at this key juncture in our own economic emergence,” Dominguez said.
Areas linked by the bypass road project are among the most congested as these places connect towns hosting new industrial estates and numerous agribusiness enterprises.
“The bypass road will complement the food route supplying Metro Manila. It is a vital link in the food chain highly appreciated by the population of Bulacan province,” Dominguez said.
The agreement for Phase 3 of the Project provides for interest rates of 1.5 percent per annum for non-consulting services and 0.01 percent per annum for consulting services with a repayment period of 20 years and a 10-year grace period.
Phase 1 of the Arterial Bypass Road Project costing 6.3 billion yen (or $55.6 million), and Phase 2 worth 4.591 billion yen (or $40.90 million) were both financed with Official Development Assistance (ODA) loans from Japan signed in 2004 and 2012, respectively.
The project’s first component was completed in November 2012, while Phase 2 is nearing completion and is expected to be inaugurated in May this year.
Phase 3 of the project involves upgrading and expanding the existing Bypass Road from two lanes to a four-lane carriageway national road.
The Exchange of Notes on this component of the Arterial Road Bypass Project was signed between the Philippines and Japan in November last year when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the Philippines to take part in the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings.
Last Feb. 12, top officials of the Philippines and Japan agreed to “steadily implement” for the next five years their joint commitments on major fields of bilateral cooperation, particularly on the implementation of the Duterte administration’s big-ticket infrastructure projects that Tokyo has pledged to support through funding and technology assistance.
During the fourth meeting of the Philippines-Japan Joint Committee on Infrastructure Development and Economic Cooperation held in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu, both sides also agreed “to work towards the partial operability by 2022 of, and are looking forward to the signing of the first tranche of the loan for, the Metro Manila Subway Project (Phase I) by March 2018.”
The Philippine side in the Joint Committee was headed by Dominguez and NEDA Director-General and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, while the Japanese delegation was headed by Dr. Hiroto Izumi, who is a Special Advisor to Prime Minister Abe.
During the meeting, both sides also presented measures to speed up the implementation of the Philippines’ infrastructure projects that Tokyo has committed to support, and also confirmed “the updated candidate list of projects, including new projects proposed for Japanese loan/grant financing.”