PHL, Japan meeting on Build, Build, Build projects

PHILIPPINE and Japanese officials are set to meet on Wednesday (October 28), to discuss the progress of Japan-funded infrastructure projects under the government’s “Build, Build, Build” program.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Department of Finance said this meeting would happen via videoconferencing for the first time as travel restrictions remain amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 10th Japan-Philippines Joint Committee on Infrastructure Development and Economic Cooperation will also be the first time that the bilateral panel will convene under the new administration of Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

Chairing the Philippine side in the committee is Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III while Dr. Hiroto Izumi, the special advisor to Prime Minister Suga, is expected to lead the Japanese side.

Besides discussing the status of Japan-funded Build, Build, Build projects, this high-level panel will also provide updates from both sides on Japan’s assistance to the Philippines’s Covid-19 response efforts. Both sides will also tackle the impact of Covid-19 on the implementation of the Japan-supported projects and the safety of workers and other personnel involved in their construction.

For its part, the Philippines will share developments on the  Mindanao peace process, the ongoing rehabilitation of Marawi City, and the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

On the other hand, Japan will provide updates on its ongoing assistance to Mindanao under the framework of the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development (J-BIRD) and other programs designed to help promote stability and economic growth in the new autonomous region.

Among the Japan-funded infrastructure projects that the committee is expected to discuss in the October 28 meeting are the Metro Manila Subway Project (Phase I), North-South Railway Project, Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) Rehabilitation Project, Davao City Bypass Construction Project, and the Cebu-Mactan Bridge and Coastal Road Construction Project.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the committee met alternately in Japan and the Philippines.  The panel first convened in March 2017 in Tokyo, while its latest face-to-face meeting was in Hakone in December last year.

Since the start of the Duterte administration, 15 loan agreements have been signed between the Philippines and Japan worth a combined JPY679.3 billion (approximately P317 billion or $6.24 billion), of which 11 involve the construction of big-ticket projects under “Build, Build, Build.”

These agreements also include two loans amounting to JPY100 billion signed this year for the Philippines’s Covid-19 response.

Japan is the No. 1 provider of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to the Philippines, with loan and grant commitments amounting to around $10.1 billion as of June this year.  This sum represents 38.53 percent of the country’s total ODA portfolio.

As of June this year, ODA loans from Japan amounted to $10.03 billion (40.77 percent of the country’s total ODA loans), while grants totaled $69.45 million. This makes Japan the largest ODA loan provider to the Philippines and the 8th largest in terms of grant financing.

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