MANILA, July 11 (Xinhua) -- The Philippine government and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) signed on Thursday a 1.3-billion-U.S. dollar loan, the first tranche of a total of 2.75-billion-U.S. dollar loan, for the Malolos-Clark Railway Project.
Philippine Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez signed on behalf of the Philippine government while ADB Vice-President Ahmed Saeed signed for the Manila-based multilateral lending bank.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte witnessed the signing ceremony at the presidential palace.
"Our work in the Philippines has always held a special place in the history of ADB. Now, under Duterte's 'Build, Build, Build' infrastructure program, ADB is considerably scaling up its own support to the government," Saeed said.
He added that the Malolos-Clark Railway Project is "ADB's single largest infrastructure project financing ever at 2.75 billion U.S. dollars. We are pleased to be supporting this important flagship project in our host country."
The Malolos-Clark railway is part of the Philippine government's North-South Commuter Railway project, which aims to link New Clark City to Calamba by 2025.
The project will use cutting-edge technology to build an elevated railway line, with a maximum train speed of 160 km per hour, to help ease the chronic road congestion in and around Metro Manila, reduce air pollution, cut the costs of transport and logistics, and encourage economic growth and a population shift outside the capital.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is co-financing the project with additional financing of up to two billion U.S. dollars for the rolling stock and the railway systems.
The Malolos-Clark project is a result of close collaboration between the ADB, JICA, and the Department of Transportation of the Philippines.
During project preparation, the ADB said a joint technical team from the department and the two institutions conducted regular "Build, Build, Build" meetings, with reporting to Philippine Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade.
The ADB's safeguard and resettlement policies were adopted and are being implemented for the project, the bank said.
The ADB said civil works contracts under the project are being bided out, with the first contract awards expected in the fourth quarter of this year.
The ADB's assistance to the Philippines is expected to hit a record 2.5 billion U.S. dollars for 2019, more than double its average annual financing of one billion U.S. dollars in the last three years.