17 March 2017

Proposed Subic-Clark Railway project listed in forthcoming PHL-Japan trade, infrastructure talks

The Philippines and Japan are set to begin a new round of discussions on trade and infrastructure late this month, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).

The high-level meeting, which will take place in Tokyo, is part of the commitments of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe when he visited the country in January.

The Subic-Clark Railway Project is part of the #BuildBuildBuild program of the Duterte Administration

Neda Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said the discussions will include finalizing the projects to be funded by the Japanese government.

One infrastructure project that could be discussed in the meeting is the hotly contested Subic-Clark Railway project, which is being eyed for funding by both the Chinese and Japanese governments.

The P35.044 billion worth project involves the construction of a 65-kilometer cargo and passenger standard gauge railway.

Envisioned to be a “speed train”, the project will traverse the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway and the Subic Freeport Expressway.

“The project will connect Subic to the major economic hubs in Central Luzon. The project can decongest Metro Manila by transferring portions of business activity to Clark and Subic,” the Neda documents stated.

On the trade side, it is known that the Philippines has a bilateral trade agreement with Japan, the Japan–Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (Jpepa).

The Jpepa agreement was signed in Helsinki in 2006 and was ratified by the Philippine Senate in 2008.

In 2015 the Department of Agriculture (DA) said the Philippines is seeking to bring down tariffs for sugar once a review of the Jpepa begins.

Based on figures from Japan Customs, tariffs for cane sugar range from 18.9 percent to 26 percent.

Agriculture Undersecretary Segredo R. Serrano said the Philippine government is also asking Japan to lower tariff for other agricultural products, such as processed food, fish products and tropical fruits, including bananas, mangoes and pineapples.

In 2007 the DA estimated that the Philippines would earn some $419 million in potential revenues from farm exports under the Jpepa. The department said the amount represents the tariff cuts due that will be implemented under the free-trade scheme. (Cai Ordinario, BusinessMirror)