MANILA (UPDATE)— President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. on Friday said the government and Japan's signing of the North-South Commuter Railway contract package signals a "new chapter" in Philippine infrastructure, as he assured the public that the sector's continuous development will be among his administration's priorities.
The railway project extension (CP NS-01) seeks to link Clark, Pampanga and Calamba, Laguna. Malacañang said it is co-financed by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Asian Development Bank.
The total project cost is pegged at P873.6 billion, a release from the Palace showed.
"As we sign this contract package, we do not only write a new chapter in realizing important infrastructure projects that will foster growth and revitalize the economy," Marcos, who witnessed the signing of the project, said during his speech.
"I certainly have --- must thank the Government of Japan and the Japan International Cooperation Agency for the financial support in the implementation of CP NS-01 and for being active partners in the country’s infrastructure development," he said.
The President added that this move will boost the two countries' relations "built on mutual confidence and cooperation."
"[This is a] relationship that has gone on for many, many decades and I can say without fear of contradiction that the development of the Philippines, especially in terms of infrastructure has shown that Japan has taken a very, very important part in that," he said.
The Department of Transportation and the Mitsubishi Corporation, which earlier bagged the P110.4 billion deal for the electro-mechanical systems (E&M) and track works for the railway project, signed the contract.
Once completed, the 147-kilometer North-South Commuter Railway will reduce travel time between Clark Airport to Calamba City in Laguna from more than 4 hours to only less than 2 hours, and can accommodate up to 800,000 passengers per day.
It is also expected to generate least 110,000 direct and indirect jobs during its construction.
For the Philippine leader, the deal will aid in the "weaknesses" in the supply chain because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine crisis, noting that this will help spur the economy.
“We recognize the fact that an efficient transport system will have a multiplier effect on employment and on the economy... So we cannot fall short at this aspect,” the President said.
“I assure the Filipino people that the government will strive to modernize and improve the transportation system. These will be one of our cornerstones of progress as we move full speed ahead into a brighter tomorrow.”
The President meanwhile jokingly floated the idea of having a bullet-train system with Japanese officials as his administration’s next big project.
“I was joking (JICA Chief Representative) Mr (Takema) Sakamoto earlier and I said that now that we have this maybe the next one is Shinkansen that we can have in the Philippines,” he said.
The construction for the North-South Commuter Railway System is expected to begin by April 2023 with partial operations from Clark International Airport to Malolos, Bulacan by the third quarter of 2026, and full operations by the second quarter of 2029.