• Japan still PH’s top development partner


    Japan remains the top development partner of the Philippines, the government said on Thursday, accounting for the bulk of ongoing official development assistance (ODA) loans as of the first half.

    The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA said aggregate ODA loans amounted to $10.797 billion as of end-June, consisting of 54 project loans worth $8.197 billion and seven program loans totaling $2.6 billion.

    Comparative 2016 figures were not provided.

    The NEDA said loans from Japan, administered through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), accounted for 44.83 percent or $4.84 billion of the ODA loan portfolio.

    “Japan has been our long-time development partner and we have established a strong relationship with them.
    They have one of the best loan terms,” NEDA Undersecretary Rolando Tungpalan said.

    He explained that JICA loans, particularly under the Special Terms for Economic Partnership, have a 40-year payment period and carry annual interest rates of 0.1 percent for civil works and 0.01 percent for consulting services.

    Priority projects with funding from the JICA include the Philippine National Railway North 2 (Malolos-Clark Airport-Clark Green City Rail), Cavite Industrial Area Flood Management Project, Malitubog-Maridagao Irrigation Project Phase II and the recently approved Metro Manila Subway Project, the NEDA said.

    The World Bank, meanwhile, was the country’s second-biggest provider of ODA loans with $2.948 billion or 27.31 percent of the total.

    The Asian Development Bank ranked third with $2.174 billion, accounting for 20.14 percent.

    The country’s disbursement level, meanwhile, slightly decreased to $802.95 million in the first half from the $861.04 million last year, while the disbursement rate rose to 86.68 percent from 71.38 percent.

    Tungpalan highlighted the contribution of ODA loans towards the implementation of priority projects, noting that these will fund 23 of the 35 projects approved by the NEDA Board.

    “Thirty-five projects have already been approved by the NEDA Board amounting to P1.235 trillion, majority of which will be funded by ODA in the amount of P1.074 trillion,” he said.

    “Last September 12, the NEDA Board approved the Metro Manila Subway Project, amounting to P355.588 billion, to be funded by Japan,” Tungpalan added.

    Streamlining approvals

    In a related development, the Finance department said the interagency Investment Coordination Committee-Cabinet Committee (ICC-CC) was set to ask the NEDA Board to further streamline the approval process for ODA-funded big-ticket projects.

    Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd, who chairs the ICC-CC said a “3-in-1” process would cut the time devoted to necessary government actions to just one NEDA Board meeting instead of the usual four to eight weeks.

    NEDA Board approval, the issuance of a special presidential authority to negotiate and sign the loan, guarantee or grant agreement, and the Budget department’s Forward Obligational Authority will be issued simultaneously, he said.

    “Our goal here is to speed up the approval and implementation of our flagship infra projects so that we can get shovels on the ground as soon as possible,” Dominguez said.


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