Clark railway loan deal signed

Sec. Dominguez and JICA Director General Ogawa. (DoTr)

The Philippines and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) signed the loan agreement for the North-South Commuter Railway Extension Project (NSCR) on Monday.

Department of Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez, Department of Public Works and Highways Sec. Mark Villar, Philippine National Railway (PNR) General Manager Junn Magno, Minister Atsushi Kuwabara of the Embassy of Japan and JICA Director General Shigenori Ogawa signed the agreement marking another milestone in the Build Build Build Program of the Duterte Administration in keeping with its commitment to deliver a more comfortable life for every Filipino.

The signing follows the signing of the loan agreements for the Metro Manila Subway Project last 16 March and for the MRT-3 Rehabilitation Project last 8 November.

The North South Commuter Railway, also known as the combined PNR Clark Phase 1, PNR Clark Phase 2, and PNR Calamba Project, connects the three regions making up our Greater Capital Region or GCR: that’s Region III or Central Luzon in the North, the National Capital Region or Metro Manila in the center, and Region IVA or CALABARZON in the South.

The NSCR is a landmark project being the second largest railway project that JICA has been involved in and also the largest railway project of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which has not been involved in the Philippines railway sector since 1983.

Further, the NSCR is the Philippine government’s largest railway investment to date.

“The massive commitments from JICA and the Asian Development Bank demonstrate that Build Build Build is a program that is trusted, and concretely supported, even by the most scrupulous development lenders in the world,” said DoTr Undersecretary for railways TJ Batan.

“With this 3rd JICA Loan Agreement, and together with our partners from the Department of Finance, the DBM, NEDA, DPWH, BCDA, and the PNR, today marks the point when we can say that our Japan-funded railway projects under Build Build Build is now fully funded, and we are full steam ahead to delivering President Duterte’s promise of a more comfortable life for every Filipino,” added Batan.

The NSCR is more than just another railway project, as it promises to deliver a new way of life to the millions of Filipinos and the following benefits:
– parents will have more time to spend with their children, and they can bring their kids to school and still make it in time for work;
– commuters will have more time for rest and personal development, as 4-hour commutes will be a thing of the past;
– livelihood opportunities will be more accessible, with fast and reliable access to several new growth centers from Clark Airport in Central Luzon to Calamba in Calabarzon; and
– even leisure opportunities will be changed, as weekend tourists from Metro Mania will now have more convenient access to the hot springs of Los Banos and the food of Pampanga, which is considered by many as the culinary capital of the country.

“We bring the harried commuters of the Mega Manila area a very glad tidings today. This signing ceremony for the first tranche of the loan for the North-South Commuter Railway or the NSCR Extension Project will allow work to begin towards completing a high-capacity commuter service along a 147-kilometer corridor from Clark, Pampanga to Calamba, Laguna,” said Dominguez.

“This combined railway system is the biggest project so far to be undertaken under the Build, Build, Build Program, with a total cost of P628.42 billion (or about $12.03 billion). The economic benefits of improved mobility for our commuters in this very large urban sprawl will translate into many times over the cost of this project,” Dominguez added.

The DoF chief said the commuter rail service is designed to address passenger volumes deep into the future with its capacity to run 15 trains per hour, with each train having 8 cars or 8 bagons each, and with each train having a capacity of carrying as many as 2,200 passengers per train.

Operating speed will reach up to 160 kilometers per hour cutting the travel time between Clark and Calamba from the current five hours by bus to as little as 1.5 hours.

The project will be operational by 2022.

Furthermore, cutting-edge Japanese technologies from platform screen doors, signaling, rolling stocks, flood resilience, to anti-seismic designs will be adopted for the NSCR.

“This is a system immune from all the heartache and exasperation with our existing commuter rail services. It is a railway system we can be truly proud of,” Dominguez said.

According to Dominguez, the loan approval was processed in just two months after the NEDA Board approved the project in November 2018 making it by far the fastest loan processing time in the history of Philippines-Japan bilateral cooperation.

Total loan financing requirement for the project is estimated at P488 billion or about $9.34 billion which will be co-financed between the JICA and ADB.

The loan agreement signed Monday amounting to P80.47 billion or approximately $1.54 billion represents the first tranche of the total JICA commitment for the project. It carries an interest rate of 10 basis points per annum for non-consulting services and 1 basis point per annum for consulting services; to be repaid within 40 years inclusive of a 12-year grace period.

The commuter rail service ought to have been built many years ago and might have spared our harried commuters all the grief they bear now, said Dominguez.

But previous governments did not have the fiscal space, did not have the enthusiasm of our international development partners and, most important, did not have the unyielding political will we benefit from today, he said

The DoF secretary thanked development partners, the JICA and the ADB, for their “generosity, the confidence you hold in our ability to undertake this project, and the contagious optimism we share in the future of this great nation.”

“Without your unwavering support, this large undertaking, which was earlier inconceivable, will now become a bright reality,” he said.

p: wjg

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