Japan To Extend $2.4-B To Philippines: Two Counties Enemies No More

Japan wants to fund a new railway to ease the traffic situation in the Philippines.

Japan wants to aid the Philippines in its worsening problem in traffic congestion, especially in Metro Manila.

On Friday, Japan announced that it will pour $2.4 billion into a new railway, a 38-kilometer (24-mile) elevated commuter line that would connect Manila to nearby Bulacan province, to ease the capital’s gridlock.

Pres. Rodrigo Duterte shaking hands with Japan's foreign ministry Sec. Masato Otaka.
Pres. Rodrigo Duterte shaking hands with Japan’s foreign ministry Sec. Masato Otaka.

“This is one of the biggest projects Japan has ever embarked upon using the yen loan,” Masato Otaka, deputy press secretary for Japan’s foreign ministry, told reporters in Manila. “Railways are one of our fortes … We sympathise with the Filipinos that this is a project that needs to be done very, very quickly.”

Otaka said Japan was also open to building a railway in the southern region of Mindanao, a project Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had previously said China offered to fund.

Upon resumption to office, President Duterte said reducing traffic congestion and fixing the deteriorating transport system are priorities for his administration.

Apparently, he has declined invitations for engagements in Manila, saying he wants to avoid worsening the congestion. A usual scene in the capital is finding railway commuters endure long lines and overcrowding in trains that sometimes stop between stations or even overshoot their tracks.

Japan is Philippines’ top trading partner and source of aid despite being foes during World War II. But now that the Philippines is facing a presumptive war with neighbor China on the territorial issues in the West Philippine Sea, it has sought to strengthen ties with Japan.

Phl-Japan banners

The railway was among the points of discussion between Duterte and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida when the latter visited in Davao on Thursday.

A Japanese-funded study found that Manila’s traffic problems cost the Philippines an estimated $64 million a day in 2015

The Japanese loan is for the Philippine transportation department, payable over 40 years, though Ohtaka did not give a timeline for the project.

Japan is also donating coast guard vessels and leasing aircraft to strengthen the Philippines’ weak military and maritime capabilities.

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