DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 11 Feb) – The Philippine government is set to sign a loan agreement with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for $202.04 million or P10.54 billion to improve the road network in Mindanao after the exchange of notes between Foreign Affairs secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono on Sunday.
Natsuko Sakata, Japan’s assistant press secretary, told reporters on Sunday that the signing of the loan agreement was supposed to happen alongside the signing of the exchange of letters but it did not materialize due to some procedures.
She said no schedule has been set for the signing of the agreement for the “Road Network Development Project in Conflict-Affected Areas in Mindanao” but added it will happen soon.
Rehabilitating the road system is expected to revitalize the economy of Mindanao, contribute to developing a road network that supports the foundation of people’s lives in Mindanao and improve access to public services such as schools and hospitals.
“We have to revitalize the economy in those conflict-affected areas. Now is the time for everybody to enjoy the dividends of peace. We have to come back to normal life and to economic activities You need roads and transportation services,” she said.
Aside from the road projects, the Japanese government will also support the transition process in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). The transition period is three years or until 2022.
The road network project is expected to be completed by 2026.
The loan has a repayment period of 25 years, inclusive of seven-year grace period.
In a briefer published on the website of the Japanese Embassy in the Philippines, the loan will be utilized to finance projects that will “improve logistics, stimulate economic activity, and strengthen access to the region with the construction and refurbishment of roads and bridges” in the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, and Sultan Kudarat.
“The project will construct and improve access roads to arterial roads linking the main cities of Mindanao, thereby contributing to the revitalization of the regional economy, the reduction of poverty and the consolidation of peace in conflict affected areas in Mindanao,” it said.
The projects that will be funded using the Japanese loan include the construction and improvement of 101.9 kilometer access roads, including the 19.8-km. Marawi Ring Road and 23-km. Marawi Trans-Central Road.
The infrastructure projects are intended to “foster economic activity, ensure smooth commodity flow, and improve the region’s accessibility.”
The Japanese government will also provide a grant for the detailed deisgns for Matanog-Barira-Alamada Road and Tapian-Lebak Coastal Road, which are suppored by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
It said Japan has been supporting Mindanao peace and development through the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development (J-BIRD).
Since its launch 2006, Japan has provided a total of P13 billion that benefited 824 community infrastructure projects such as schools and clinics and capacity-building for 400 people from the Bangsamoro area by bringing them to Japan in the last five years.
Peace and development in Mindanao has been identified as one of the priority areas in the Japanese government’s “Country Development Cooperation Policy for the Republic of the Philippines.” (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)