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Mindanao Gets New Stimulus from Government

The government is not missing a beat in its efforts to help Mindanao. President Duterte and his Cabinet, true to their promise, are pouring it on in Mindanao in a bid to make the island more productive.


Helping Mindanao realize its maximum potential, I believe, it will make the Philippine economic growth more inclusive. Tapping its natural resources, generating more jobs in the island and building more farm-to-market roads, in my opinion, are some of the keys to developing the economy of Mindanao. The restoration of peace and order in the island, of course, is of paramount importance to its economic development.


I am pleased to learn that the government, with the help of the Japanese government, is providing more financial assistance to the island. Philippine and Japanese officials just last week signed a loan agreement amounting to $202.04 million to fund the construction and improvement of roads in Mindanao’s conflict-affected areas, including the war-torn city of Marawi.


Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, who signed the loan in behalf of the Philippines in Clark, Pampanga, said Japan’s credit would fund several roads in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The loan is designed to reinvigorate the local economies in the island and reduce poverty by linking communities to Mindanao’s trade centers. The new roads are expected to improve accessibility and ease the flow of goods and services to and from these areas.


The loan is aptly called the Road Network Development Project in Conflict-Affected Areas in Mindanao, with the Japan International Cooperation Agency extending the financial assistance. It aims to fund the construction and improvement of about 176.6 kilometers of access roads, including 19.8 kilometers of the Marawi Ring Road and 23 kilometers of the Marawi Trans-Central Road, according to Jica.


We can expect more loans from Japan to fund Mindanao’s development and the rest of the Philippines. Dominguez cited the possible signing within this year of a supplemental loan for the ongoing Davao City Bypass Construction Project. Tokyo is also set to sign three more loan agreements for the New Mactan Bridge Construction Project in Cebu, the second phase of the Metro Manila Priority Bridges Seismic Improvement Project, and the second tranche loan for the first phase of the Metro Manila Subway Project.


The Department of Finance, meanwhile, is preparing the issuance of Marawi bonds to raise additional funds for the large-scale reconstruction and rehabilitation of war-torn Marawi City. It is now a matter of sweetening the features of the bonds to make them attractive to investors and financial institutions.


Dominguez said the government would issue the Marawi bonds once the ongoing Bangon Marawi Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Program moves to the next phase of the rehabilitation plan, which involves building large-scale infrastructure projects.


The finance department is considering several features to make the Marawi bonds attractive to investors to supplement the massive funds required for the comprehensive rehabilitation of the city destroyed by the 2017 siege of Islamic State-inspired terrorists.


The government at the moment is using funds from the national budget to finance the clearing operations in Marawi and the provision of housing and basic services, such as water, to residents.


“…there has been a lot of work, especially in providing housing and water and sewage disposal facilities for the residents in that area already. So, fortunately, we’ve been able to fund it from the GAA [General Appropriations Act], and when we get to the real big construction projects, that’s when we will be issuing the bonds,” says Dominguez.


More funds should be available for the rehabilitation of Maraw City. The Philippines in November last year received P35.1 billion (about $670 million) in pledges for concessional financing and grants from the international community to aid in the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts for Marawi. The pledges came from the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development, and the governments of Japan, China and Spain.


I have seen earlier the construction of several infrastructure projects in Mindanao that will certainly boost the island’s economy in the near future. As I’ve written before in this space, the election of President Duterte as the first president from Mindanao has helped in the progress that we are now witnessing in the island.