PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte said that he will be asking Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for greater assistance in building more railways for the country, particularly in Mindanao as he pursues political, economic and defense cooperation between the Philippines and its “true friend,” Japan.
In an interview with the Japanese media before leaving the country, Duterte said he will be pushing for economic cooperation in the form of “more infrastructure, bridges, and railways” to spur growth in the countryside.
“As you can see, no nation has developed faster without the railway. We might want to have it in Mindanao, considering my limited term, we cannot talk of a massive railway station because that would involve something like almost 6,000 kilometers,” Duterte said Monday, adding that he would be asking for possible Japanese support for train systems to Clark and Bicol.
“In particular, we can tap the experience and expertise of Japan in developing high quality and modern public transportation,” Duterte said in another speech before leaving the country on Tuesday.
The only problem he saw, Duterte admitted, is the space needed to build the necessary infrastructure.
“Plenty of houses and people there. Even to get the space to put the railway to make it run. Something which is a very big, an enormous problem for government and the builder itself, the contractor,” he said.
Japan had earlier announced that it is pouring a massive $2.4 billion for a 38-kilometer (24-mile) elevated commuter line would connect Manila to nearby Bulacan province to decongest the capital and help spur economic activity.
Masato Ohtaka, deputy press secretary for Japan’s foreign ministry, said that Japan has signified its openness to building a railway Mindanao, a project Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had previously said China offered to fund.
During his state visit to Beijing last week, the Transportation Department had signed an MoU for a rail system aimed at spurring development in the countryside and improving the connectivity of goods, services and people in far-flung areas as well as reducing the congestion in the major cities.
Among these are The Mindanao Railway System and the Manila to Clark direct railway as well as the Clark-Subic cargo and passenger railway.
A Japanese-funded study earlier stressed that official estimates on metropolitan Manila’s notorious traffic jams cost the Philippine economy at least P3 billion ($64 million), former Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said. John Paolo Bencito
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