By Kate Shiene Agna
MANILA — High-level Philippine and Japanese officials will hold their 11th meeting on infrastructure development and economic cooperation on July 28 via videoconferencing amid the continuing travel restrictions arising from the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic.
The meeting will be chaired by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua for the Philippine side, and by Dr. Izumi Hiroto, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Japanese delegation.
This will be the second time that the Japan-Philippines Joint Committee on Infrastructure Development and Economic Cooperation will be convened online.
The 10th meeting on October 28 last year was also held in a videoconference format.
The discussions will focus on the status of the Japan-funded projects under President Duterte’s signature initiative “Build, Build, Build” program and Japan’s assistance to the Philippines’ COVID-19 response efforts, including its ongoing mass vaccination program.
Also expected to be discussed during the virtual meeting are the updates on the Mindanao peace process, which Japan has been actively supporting through the framework of the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development (J-BIRD).
Aside from Japan’s assistance to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), the two sides will also discuss Japan’s support for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Marawi City and its surrounding areas.
The meeting will discuss the progress of the first phase of several Japan-supported projects, such as the Metro Manila Subway Project, Philippine Railway Institute, Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT-3) Rehabilitation Project, Davao City Bypass Construction Project, Central Mindanao Highway Project, North-South Railway Project, Paranaque Spillway Project, Metro Manila Priority Bridges Seismic Improvement Project and New Clark City.
Last July 8, the Philippines received a shipment of over 1 million AstraZeneca doses donated by the Japanese government, which, since the start of the pandemic, has been in close cooperation with Philippine officials in helping contain the spread of COVID-19.
These Japan-backed projects to help curb the spread of the virus include the COVID-19 Crisis Response Emergency Support Loan (CRESL), the Post-Disaster Standby Loan Phase 2 (PDSL 2), the joint clinical trial for the anti-flu drug Avigan, procurement of medical equipment and establishment of laboratory surveillance sites, and the development of a cold chain system in the Philippines.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the joint committee met alternately in Japan and the Philippines.
The panel first convened in March 2017 in Tokyo, while its latest face-to-face meeting was in Hakone in December 2019. PIA