MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte yesterday thanked Japan for supporting the Philippines’ development projects, saying Tokyo treats Manila like one of its own provinces.
In remarks delivered during the lowering of the tunnel boring machine of the Metro Manila subway project in Valenzuela City, Duterte said several projects in the Philippines are sponsored by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which provides various forms of assistance to developing countries.
“I cannot seem to fathom the love of the Japanese people for this republic. There are so many projects going on in the country and being pushed and sponsored by the JICA,” he said.
“Past is past. But until now, Japan has continued to help… It would seem really that we are a part of the Japanese government. It’s like we are a province (of Japan). We are … you know, being treated as almost a part of Japan that should be developed in due time,” he added.
The Japanese government had also funded projects in Davao when he was still mayor of the southern city, according to the outgoing Chief Executive.
He noted that the interest of the loan for the subway project is so low, describing it as a “gift from the Japanese people to the people of the Philippines.”
“I’d like to express my gratitude all over again every time I meet people from JICA and the projects all around the Philippines, where I am invited to witness its inauguration or its operability and all,” the President said.
“That is a Japanese way of really saying that ‘we want to help you.’ And it’s always there,” he added.
The Metro Manila subway project is the Philippines’ first underground railway system and one of the key projects under the ambitious “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program. The construction of the project’s first phase is ongoing and will cover 13 underground stations traversing six cities in Metro Manila – Valenzuela, Quezon City, Pasig, Makati, Taguig and portions of Parañaque.
The first tranche of the loan agreement for the project was signed in 2018. The $935-million loan carries a 0.1-percent interest rate per year for non-consulting services and 0.01-percent interest rate per year for consulting services, payable in 40 years with a grace period of 12 years.
An additional loan package worth P116 billion was signed in 2021. The loan carries an interest rate of 0.10 percent per year and is payable in 40 years with a 13-year grace period.
During the event, Duterte saw the lowering of the tunnel boring machine cutter head from the view deck.
He also witnessed the Philippine National Railways train in operation en route to the Philippine Railways Institute Training Center for an inspection of the train simulator, mock-up train and pantograph.
The President also tried the train simulator to be used for the training of subway operators.
“This will truly help the commuting public, especially those coming from Quezon City going to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, to experience the convenience and comfort of a fast, efficient, and modern transportation system,” he said.
“It will likewise allow travelers to save much time and energy, thereby giving them opportunities to become more productive and more focused on other worthwhile endeavors. May I express my gratitude again to the Japanese government for partnering with the Philippines to make this dream a reality,” he added.
The 33-kilometer railway project is slated to cut down travel time between Quezon City and NAIA from the present one hour and 10 minutes to just 35 minutes.
It is expected to accommodate 370,000 passengers per day in its first year of full operations.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, who accompanied Duterte in Valenzuela, said the Metro Manila Subway is targeted for partial operations by 2025, while full operations are eyed by 2027 at the latest. – Richmond Mercurio