Coming soon: Bullet train and subways?

Could the ‘bullet train’ zoom through our thoroughfares? Could the huge Metro Manila traffic mess be a thing of the past with the subways?

Hiroaki Nakanishi, CEO and Chairman of the Japanese engineering behemoth Hitachi, the builder of the Shinkansen or the “bullet train,” has expressed interest in participating in the Philippine government’s plan to improve the transport network in Metro Manila.

Nakanishi confirmed it at the opening of the Social Innovation Forum, a two-day event that HItachi had organized. He said that Hitachi, Japanese and Philippine Officials were in talks about infrastructure and transport projects, particularly aimed at improving the railway system in the Philippines.

Nakahishi added that “on the subway, we have already started the discussions on making clearer feasibility studies about that.”

Hitachi, a century-old Japanese firm, is now focused in big infrastructure projects such as transportation networks, energy systems, and urban development. It has shifted from producing electronics and hardware products.

It has expanded its operation to other countries, like the United Kingdom, to produce its new commuter trains.

Meanwhile, in another front, the Government of Japan has affirmed its commitment to what could be its largest development assistance to the Philippines to date, as Japan’s Prime Minister is already scheduled to sign a P89-billion loan for the country’s North-South Commuter Rail Project (NSCRP) this November 2015.

Earlier, Japan has expressed its willingness to provide the Philippines a loan for the NSCRP, which is estimated to cost P108.31 billion.

Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said in an interview, on November 3, 2015, that the concessional loan that Japan will extend to the country for the project is P89 billion. The loan agreement will be signed during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the Philippines for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) this month.

“The Philippine Government has already approved the North–South Commuter Rail Project which is envisioned to alleviate the heavy traffic congestion in the north Metro Manila, by providing an efficient alternative mode of public transportation for commuters traversing between Bulacan and Manila,” Balisacan, who is also the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) director-general, said in a briefing.

“We also discussed the updates on the studies being carried out by JICA for the Mega Manila Subway Project and the New Manila International Airport Project, which are also being considered as possible collaborative undertakings by the Government of the Philippines and Japan, “Balisacan said.

Keen observers, however, are critical about the sudden upsurge of big transport infrastructure projects at the period when the present administration is about to end. Why open up multi-billion projects involving huge loans and extending long beyond the Aquino regime? (By Art V. Besana)

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