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Philippines to secure $3.9-billion ADB loans this year

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) increased its lending program for the Philippines this year to $3.9 billion (P188.9 billion), after including a fresh loan it granted for the government’s mass vaccination program.

The multilateral bank’s lending program is composed of eight projects in infrastructure, local governance and social programs, ADB Country Director for the Philippines Kelly Bird said in a briefing on Wednesday.

The program was divided into three categories covering infrastructure and long-term investments with two projects worth $1.93 billion; investments in people with three loans worth $1.2 billion; and local economic development with three projects worth $734 million.

The total amount of the updated lending program increased to $3.9 billion from $3.5 billion reported in December 2020, after the ADB approved a $400-million loan to buy coronavirus vaccines last month.

Other projects that are up for approval by the bank this year includes the $1.75-billion South Commuter railway project, a big-ticket infrastructure project aiming to connect Manila and Calamba, Laguna with a 54.6-kilometer railway system.

“The South Commuter project will be approved this year. We are aiming for most of those contracts to be awarded by the end of this year [and] civil works will begin next year,” Mr. Bird said.

The P180-million loan for the Metro Manila bridges project is also targeted to be approved this year, he said. The project involves the construction of three new bridges crossing Marikina River to ease traffic in Metro Manila.

ADB is also set to extend a $238-billion loan for the Davao Public Transport Modernization project, a $400-million loan for the Local Governance Reform program and $96-million loan to boost tourism in Palawan.

“[The loan for Palawan will not only be] focusing on capacity development for marine resource management, but also [on] providing grants to tourism enterprises to improve the competitiveness and skills training. The project is designed to ensure environmentally sustainable tourism in Palawan,” he said.

Under the “investment in people” pillar, the bank also aims to approve another $400-million loan for a project that would facilitate the school-to-work transition for youth. This will be the third and final subprogram for the project that ADB will finance, Mr. Bird said, after lending $400 million in 2019 and $300 million in 2017 for the program.

It is also expected to lend $400 million to partially fund the Universal Health Care program.

“We also have several civil standby projects that are still in preparation stages,” Mr. Bird said.

The ADB started ramping up its lending to the Philippines in 2019 as it aims to finance more infrastructure projects. The bank is looking to have an average $3-billion lending program for the Philippines each year until 2022.

Last year, the bank lent $4.24 billion to the Philippines, with 56% or $2.39 billion of which financing the government’s pandemic response. — Beatrice M. Laforga

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