MANILA, Philippines — The Asian Development Bank (ADB) yesterday approved the $2.75 billion financing for the construction of the Malolos-Clark Railway, its largest funding deal for a single infrastructure project to date.
The Manila-based multilateral development institution will be co-financing with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) the construction of the 53-kilometer passenger railway connecting suburban Malolos in Bulacan province to the Clark economic zone and international airport.
While ADB will be providing the civil works, the Japanese government, through JICA, will be providing $2 billion for the acquisition of the rolling stocks, the mechanical system for the trains and the power supply system of the railway.
The Philippine government, meanwhile, will be providing counterpart finan-cing for the shifting of utilities and right-of-way acquisition.
“For the Asian Development Bank, this is quite a historic day for us. It’s the largest ADB-financed project ever and from a development perspective we are so delighted that it is happening here in our host country, the Philippines,” said ADB country director Kelly Bird in a briefing yesterday.
The Malolos-Clark Railway is a flagship project of the government and is part of the North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR) system, a 163-kilometer suburban railway network stretching from New Clark City in Tarlac province in the north to Calamba in Laguna province south of Manila, envisioned to be completed by 2025.
This railway connecting Malolos to Clark is seen to provide safe, reliable and affordable public transportation for around 342,000 passengers in the Manila-Clark corridor. It will cut the travel time between Manila and Clark International Airport to less than one hour compared with two to three hours by car or bus at present.
Markus Roesner, ADB’s principal transport specialist, said the railway will help ease the chronic congestion in Metro Manila as up to 40 percent of the passengers in this corridor are expected to shift to railway transport.
This is also seen to spur economic growth in Central Luzon and encourage more people to relocate from the capital to growth centers in the north.
Around a dozen contracts will be awarded both for ADB and JICA’s side of financing for the Malolos-Clark Railway.
Under the financing provided by ADB, six contracts are now being bid out for the construction of the 53-kilometer railway, seven stations and depot.
Five contracts will be awarded for the construction of the 51.2-kilometer Malolos to Clark section and one contract will be awarded for the 1.9-kilometer section connecting Solis to Blumentritt.
The railway will be built on an elevated alignment, reducing the impact on communities. Right-of-way requirements for the projects are now around 80 percent complete.
Under its competitive bidding system accessible to its 68 member countries including the Philippines, ADB called out for bids in January with the deadline of submission slated for July 25.
Companies that have international experience in operations and maintenance will be given preference.
Contracts are expected to be awarded before the scheduled beginning of construction in October.
For financing on JICA’s side, several contracts will be bid out to Japanese firms or consortiums that are at least 51 percent owned by Japanese entities.
The Malolos-Clark Railway project will be carried out over five years, with partial operation slated for 2022 with all of its seven stations operational.
“The idea is to go for partial operation of the full line from Malolos to Clark but this will depend on the progress of the construction,” said Roesner. “Partial operations means there will be limited numbers of trains and also initially the traffic will be lower and will build up over the years.”
The seven stations are Calumpit, Apalit, San Fernando, Angeles, Clark, Clark Airport and Blumentritt.
The rail stations will include multi-modal facilities, allowing ease of transfers from other forms of public transportation to the trains.
Goddes Libiran, undersecretary of the Department of Transportation, said to date, there is still no fare level identified for the train system but said the direction is for the fare level to be “affordable.”
Vivencio Dizon, president and CEO of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), said the construction of the whole NSCR line will contribute to the administration’s goal of making the Subic area the next Metro Manila alongside the construction of Clark Green City and the upgrade of the Clark International Airport.