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Japan to assist Phl in 30-year railway master plan

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By Alithea De Jesus

The growing population and the volume of vehicles traveling around the National Capital Region’s main thoroughfares inevitably create horrendous traffic which sometimes as other motorists and riding public would say, it’s akin to traveling to their own province back and forth.

Needless to say, the impact of traffic congestion on the economy in terms of loss of opportunities is growing each day of the year amounting to billion of persos, not just in Metro Manila but also in other highly industrialized provinces.

Cognizant of the need to ease traffic woes, improve quality of life, and attract more investments into the country, the Philippine government committed to address the pressing issue and with the recent partnership of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Department of Transportation (DOTr), it would pave the way to roll out a “30-year Railway Master Plan for the Greater Capital Region (GCR)” with the signing of the Project’s Record of Discussions recently. 

The master plan aims to develop a network of railway lines, increase Philippine railways’ modal share of passenger trips, and increase the country’s rail routes. It will support and expand the Philippines’ ongoing efforts to address transport infrastructure gaps and perennial commuter difficulties. 

JICA Chief Representative SAKAMOTO Takema welcomed this new partnership with the Philippine government saying, “while JICA has been providing massive support to the development of quality railway systems in the Philippines, this is the time to further boost the strongest ever growth momentum of this country, and it requires a transport backbone, especially a modernized and effective railway network we can build hand-in-hand.” 

The Philippines is currently implementing major railway infrastructure projects in cooperation with JICA that include the Metro Manila Subway, North-South Commuter Railway system, MRT-3 Rehabilitation, and capacity enhancement of Light Rail Transit Lines 1 and 2. However, further expansion of railway systems to form a transport network is considered a prerequisite for the country’s development. 

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. likewise reiterated in his latest State of the Nation Address (SONA) that the government will strengthen infrastructure spending between 5 to 6 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and this project also aligns with the President’s initiative by supporting the Philippine Government to further formulate and implement new railway infrastructure projects.

“It is important to have a comprehensive and long-term vision in developing railway systems and in laying the groundwork for a truly sustainable future,” added SAKAMOTO. 

In addition to this 30-year master plan and the various railway projects, JICA is also supporting capacity development efforts including technical assistance to the Philippine Railways Institute (PRI), and Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) with the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA). Under these initiatives, JICA dispatches Japanese experts to provide inputs and share Japan’s experiences. 

With rapid urbanization, the population in the GCR (National Capital Region, Region III – Central Luzon and Region IV – CALABARZON) has risen from 29.1 million in 2007 to an estimated 44.1 million as of July 2023. 

As work is underway for the country’s ongoing major railway projects, the cooperation for a 30-year railway master plan broadens this quest for long-lasting, reliable, affordable, safe, and environment-friendly infrastructure. 

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