MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are set to discuss the Philippines' ambitious plan to build a subway in Metro Manila during the former's upcoming working visit to Japan, a Japanese official said Thursday.
Takehiro Kano, Minister and Deputy Chief of Mission at the Japanese Embassy in Manila, said the two leaders will further discuss details of the ¥1-trillion (P460-billion) aid package Japan has offered the Philippines and the Manila subway project.
Kano said the aid and various Japan-funded infrastructure projects for the Philippines will just be among various common concerns that Duterte and Abe are expected to tackle.
“Japan and the Philippines share common values such as freedom, democracy, and the rule of law,” Kano said in a news conference in Malacañang.
“In the past, the two leaders have discussed various pillars, such as economic [and] infrastructure development, support to the Mindanao peace process and illegal drugs measures, and security and counter-terrorism measures,” he said.
Duterte will be in Japan from October 29 to 31.
Construction of the P355.6-billion subway, part of the administration's P8-trillion infrastructure program, will begin early next year, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia earlier said.
The project is partly funded with aid from Japan, known for its efficient rail network.
Pernia said the subway would "significantly improve" transportation in the congested capital region, where an estimated P2.4 billion is lost every day due to traffic jams.
The subway will run from Mindanao Avenue in Quezon City to Food Terminal Inc. in Taguig City, and may be extended to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport complex farther south.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade previously said Duterte and Abe may sign the subway deal this November. Kano, however, said he does not have any confirmation yet whether this would push through.
Kano said the two leaders would also discuss Japanese help on the rehabilitation of conflict-stricken Marawi City, which was recently liberated from Islamic State-inspired terrorists.
“So far, we have already provided some humanitarian assistance with the international organizations. But now, we are in a different phase. And then we are in close contact with the Philippine government, which set up the inter-agency task force,” he said.
“And then we hear details about the actual needs of it. I think there are various kinds of needs... such as the reconstruction of the communities or human resources and getting the people back to the communities and so forth.”
He said Tokyo is also helping the Philippines deal with the drug problem.
“[With] regard to the anti-illegal drug measures, we recognize that [is a] priority area of the Philippine government, and it takes time to address it. And we have sent a mission to formulate the facility enhancement or human resource development to that end,” Kano said.
Also in the agenda during the Duterte-Abe meeting is the North Korea crisis, Kano said, as he cited Duterte's role as chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this year in rallying support behind efforts to avert Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.