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The Japanese are coming to build first PH subway

Japanese companies are now lining up to win construction contracts for the first subway in the Philippines, and one of them—Hitachi Ltd.—came to Manila to present its engineering capability to undertake what will be the country’s most expensive infrastructure project to date.

“We are explaining our capability to the government and stakeholders,” said Shinya Mitsudomi, corporate officer, group head of sales and managing director of Hitachi Ltd. Japan/Asia Pacific.

Hitachi Ltd. and regional unit Hitachi Asia Ltd. hosted Hitachi Social Innovation Forum 2017 at Makati Shangri-La Hotel in Makati City on Sept. 29 where top executives discussed Hitachi’s contribution towards social innovation for over 100 years, its full product range, turnkey, operations, maintenance solutions and international footprint. 

The forum presented Hitachi’s railway solutions, with Mitsudomi discussing the latest trends in the global railway industry, including future technologies on asset monitoring, IOT/analytics and maintenance optimization that Hitachi Rail is spearheading.

“Hitachi has a long history in rail business.  We have a very big global footprint.  That kind of experience is very much important to construct a stable and high-quality railway system in the Philippines.  In addition, we now have a very big and strong turnkey engineering solutions.  We have a lot of experience in the world, including Honolulu, Peru, Taiwan,” Mitsudomi said during a news briefing ahead of the forum.

Shinya Mitsudomi (left), corporate officer, group head of sales and managing director of Hitachi Ltd. Japan/Asia Pacific and Mitsushiko Shimizu,general manager of Hitachi Asia Ltd. Philippine Branch answer questions from journalists during a news briefing at Makati Shangri-La Hotel in Makati City.

Hitachi is among the Japanese companies interested in the P355.6-billion  Metro Manila Subway Project and other rail systems that will be implemented by the Philippine government, with the help of Japan International Cooperation Agency, Japan’s main donor agency.

Mitsushiko Shimizu, the barong-clad general manager of Hitachi Asia Ltd. Philippine Branch, said Hitachi would employ more Filipinos once it won the subway project and other infrastructure contracts in the country.  “We have 11 companies here, with 3,000 employees,” Shimizu said.

The subway project, which will run more than 30 kilometers from Mindanao Ave. in Quezon City to FTI in Taguig, before terminating at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Parañaque City, will be funded by an official development assistance loan from Jica.  The loan will have an interest of 0.10 percent per annum payable in 40 years with a grace period of 12 years.  In exchange of the concessional loan, Japanese companies will be prioritized to handle the construction of the project, which is typical of a Japanese ODA loan agreement.

Hitachi Social Innovation Forum introduced Hitachi’s railway solutions and presented how it could contribute to improving the Philippines’ railway systems and infrastructures. “We are able to provide safe, efficient and sustainable railway systems that are also environment-friendly. Railway has been drawing global attention due to its potential as a form of transportation infrastructure that can deal with many challenges faced by rapidly growing economies like the Philippines,” Shimizu said.

“Through the Hitachi Social Innovation Forum and the company’s Social Innovation Business, we aim to contribute to the Philippines’ growth trajectory in an inclusive and sustainable manner,” Shimizu said.

The subway project is a part of the Duterte administration’s P8-trillion ‘Build, Build, Build’ program that aims to decongest Metro Manila and spread out development to other parts of the country.

Metro Manila Development Authority chairman Danilo Lim said the subway project, along with a longer Skyway, Metro Rail Transit Line 7 along Commonwealth Ave., NLEx-SLEx Connector Road and a rail line from Tutuban to Malolos to Clark will help ease traffic congestion in the coming years.

The Cabinet last month approved the first phase of the subway project that will cost at least P355 billion to build. It involves the construction of a 28-hectare training center and depot in Valenzuela City as well as other related facilities. Implementation period is from 2018 to mid-2025.

National Economic and Development Authority director-general Ernesto Pernia said the first phase of the subway project would not only ease traffic in Metro Manila but also improve the quality of life of Filipinos.  “For one, carbon emissions will be reduced. And, with greater mobility, people can spend more time on things that matter to them,” Pernia said in a statement.

Travel time from Mindanao Ave. to FTI complex in Taguig City is expected to take only 31 minutes onboard the subway rail project.  It is expected to serve 365,000 passengers in the first year of operations.

Phase 1 of the project, or the subway central zone, will traverse six cities, including Valenzuela City (for the depot), Quezon City, Pasig City, Makati City, Taguig City and Parañaque City.  It will have underground stations at Mindanao Ave., Tandang Sora, North Ave., Quezon Ave., East Ave., Anonas, Katipunan, Ortigas North, Ortigas South, Kalayaan Ave., Fort Bonifacio, Cayetano Boulevard, FTI and Naia.

Phase 2 will extend the subway to Caloocan or Meycauayan, Bulacan in the north and to Dasmariñas, Cavite in the south.

First phase of the subway project was previously designed to end at FTI, but Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, along with other economic managers, pushed to have a spur line extending the subway to Naia to make it easier for airport passengers to get to their destination in Metro Manila.

“In most of our neighboring countries in Asia, you can reach the city without ever leaving the platform. So, economic managers thought we’re going to build a subway anyway. So why not push to extend it to Naia? It just makes perfect sense. The extension will mean greater connectivity and improved passenger comfort and convenience,” Tugade said in a separate statement.

Groundbreaking is currently scheduled in fourth quarter of 2018 while target completion is 2025. Cabinet officials, however, asked Jica to expedite the start of construction so that a portion of the subway can open within the term of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III recently led a Philippine delegation to the 3rd Philippines-Japan High-Level Meeting of the Joint Committee on Infrastructure Development and Economic Cooperation in Tokyo to push for “Fast and Sure” principle.

The Filipino and Japanese officials agreed to streamline their respective approval processes and introduce measures to put in the fast lane the implementation of the subway and other big-ticket infrastructure projects presented by Manila to Tokyo for possible financing. 

Dominguez said in a statement that “significant milestones” were reached in the processing of the jointly agreed project list between the two countries.

“Now that our plans have progressed, we intend to lay out specific plans on how to expedite the processing and implementation of the flagship projects,” Dominguez said.

Atsushi Konno, general manager of Hitachi Asia Ltd.’s corporate communications group, said Hitachi has the capability to complete major rail projects on schedule, based on its performance in other countries.

Hitachi focuses on the so-called social innovation business and offers a broad range of information and telecommunication systems, power systems, social infrastructure and industrial systems, electronic systems and equipment, construction machinery, high functional materials and components, automotive systems, home appliances and others. 

Hitachi said that under its 2018 mid-term management plan, it targets to increase its overseas sales ratio to more than 55 percent. “The Philippines will play an instrumental role in helping Hitachi achieve this target by focusing on energy management, railway and urban development solutions in addition to its high functional materials and ICT businesses,” the Japanese company said. 

Topics: Japanese companies , Subway , Philippines , Hitachi Ltd.
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