ADB to fund Manila-Calamba railway in 2020

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The Asian Development Bank has approved another big-ticket loan for the Philippines, this time to build a new train line from Manila to Laguna. (FILE PHOTO of the Light Rail Transit 2)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 17) — The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said it will be funding another railway line for the Philippines next year, following the biggest loan it has ever granted for a local infrastructure project.

The regional lender said it is looking to lend $2.5 billion (about ₱128.7 billion) to the Philippines in 2020, matching this year's level. Some $1.2 billion (about ₱61.8 billion) will be set aside for the South Commuter Railway Project, which will link Tutuban in Manila to Calamba, Laguna. The South Commuter train line is said to be worth ₱344.6 billion, and is under the watch of the Department of Transportation.

This is a segment of the entire North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR) system, which is also funded through official development assistance from the Japan International Cooperation Agency. The national government has also set aside a parallel budget of ₱84.7 billion for the NSCR next year, which is about a tenth of the ₱777.55-billion project cost.

Once completed, the entire NSCR will have 36 stations linking Clark International Airport and the New Clark City to Bulacan, Manila, all the way to Laguna.

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The Manila-based ADB announced in July that it has signed the first tranche of its $2.75-billion loan for the Malolos-Clark line, the northern segment of the NSCR, which is the largest project financing the Japan-led institution to date. Construction is expected to start between April-June for the 53-kilometer train line, with partial operability targeted by 2022.

For 2019, the ADB is still looking to provide funding for Infrastructure Preparation and Innovation Facility, which is meant to support feasibility studies and detailed engineering designs for projects under the "Build, Build, Build" program.

ADB is also looking to support local projects like sustainable tourism for Coron and El Nido in Palawan, as well as the modernization of public transport in Davao, to name a few.

Up for approval in the last two months of the year are the $126-million additional funding to improve water transmission systems from Angat Dam in Bulacan, as well as a $25-million capacity building program for the three-year-old Philippine Competition Commission.

Future projects

Lending will hit $2.5 billion by 2021, the ADB said in a statement on Thursday. This is triple the yearly average of $800 million granted between 2008 to 2018. Total lending will reach $9.1 billion from 2020 to 2022, with nearly 60 percent of the credit allotted for transportation projects.

Other projects ADB is eyeing to fund next year include the proposed EDSA Greenways Project ($100 million), which will set up elevated walkways in "high-density traffic locations" along the main thoroughfare of Metro Manila. Funding is also being readied for the Integrated Flood Risk Management Sector Project ($400 million), which will involve six river basins nationwide, and three bridges to help ease Metro Manila road traffic ($180 million).

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"ADB's 2020 program will also include financing for the Expanded Social Assistance Project, which will build on a decade of ADB assistance to the government's conditional cash transfer program and support for the government's agricultural competitiveness program," the lender said.

Lending will hit $2.5 billion by 2021, the ADB said in a statement on Thursday. This is triple the yearly average of $800 million granted between 2008 to 2018. Total lending will reach $9.1 billion from 2020 to 2022, with nearly 60 percent of the credit allotted for transportation projects.

Lined up for 2021 are the Metro Rail Transit Line 4 project worth $500 million. An additional $1 billion fund representing the second tranche of the Malolos-Clark train line will also be disbursed, according to ADB data. Other projects on deck are the Bataan-Cavite Bridge Project and the Laguna Lakeshore Road Transport Project, each worth $500 million.

A $100-million allocation has also been set aside to develop irrigation systems in Mindanao. The ADB is also looking to provide a $300-million support for the government's universal healthcare project, which will be rolled out next year.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Sandra Zialcita contributed to this report.