MRT-3 rehab to begin in April says Japanese funder

Cathy Yang, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 26 2019 08:35 PM | Updated as of Mar 26 2019 09:57 PM

MANILA - The rehabilitation of the MRT-3 will begin this April, an official of the Japanese agency funding the project said Tuesday. 

The Japan International Cooperation Agency said Sumitomo Corp and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will restore the entire MRT railway system. 

The trains once fixed, will run twice faster at 60 kilometers per hour, while waiting times for passengers will be cut down to 3.5 minutes from the current 7 minutes, said Kiyo Kawabuchi, JICA Senior Representative for the Philippine Office.

Kawabuchi said the rehab is expected to be finished within 43 months. 

Besides the MRT-3 rehab, JICA is also funding the Metro Manila Subway and the North-South Commuter Railway because JICA believes these projects would greatly impact the economic development of the Philippines, she said. 

"Japan really wants to support the 'Build, Build, Build' project because it is now the chance for the Philippines to transform the entire life of the Filipinos especially in Metro Manila," Kawabuchi said in an exclusive interview with ANC. 

With several railways being built, the agency is also backing the establishment of the Philippine National Railway Institute to train personnel who will operate the different railways. 

"By fostering the human resource, the government of the Philippines would like to ensure the sustainable operation of all those railway networks," said Kawabuchi.

JICA, she said, has committed 230 billion yen (P109.5 billion) alone so far to support the Duterte administration's infrastructure program.

"That is quite a huge volume to provide assistance to one country in one year," Kawabuchi said.

Japan's loans to the Philippines will have 0.1 percent interest, with a payment period of 40 years, including a grace period of 12 years. 

"The strength of our loan is not just the financial concessionality but we also support the surrounding policies of the government of the Philippines to make sure that each project will be implemented and takes place in the expected [schedule]," she said. 

Japan's interest in providing infrastructure loans to the Philippines comes at a time of increased trade and investment interest by China, alongside warmer ties between Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Rodrigo Duterte, and as China's influence in the world grows through the Belt and Road Initiative. 

When asked about whether the Tokyo Olympics 2020 construction might hamper promptness in constructing these projects, she assured the Olympics construction is all done with and "we're focused on the Philippines." 

When asked whether JICA can and will deliver on time and on budget, she said JICA and government are now working closely, regularly meeting to ensure these deadlines and budgets are set. 

When Japan funded the SCTex, its initial cost was P15 billion, but the tollway ended up costing P27 billion after delays.