(STAR) By Paolo Romero - Japan, China, the World Bank (WB), and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have committed some $7 billion to help fund the more than 90 infrastructure projects for the five "super regions" of the country, President Arroyo announced yesterday.

Mrs. Arroyo led a groundbreaking ceremony of an P800-million bridge in Dagupan City in Pangasinan that was heavily funded by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC).

"Last week, we received more than $7 billion worth of commitments from Japan, China, the WB, and the ADB to fund our super regions," Mrs. Arroyo said, referring to North Luzon, Metro Luzon, Central Philippines, Mindanao, and the "Cyber Corridor."

Mrs. Arroyo thanked Japanese Ambassador Ryuichiro Yamazaki, who was present during the ceremonies, for the continued support saying Japan is the country’s biggest source of foreign assistance funding.

She noted that the Pantal Bridge in Dagupan is just one of almost 200 Japanese-funded projects in the country worth a total of P8 billion.

The bridge is just one of the 64 bridges to be constructed under Contract Package III of the Urgent Bridges Construction Project for Rural Development with funding assistance from the JBIC.

Mrs. Arroyo and Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. said the 380-meter long bridge would greatly boost commerce and trade in North Luzon. It is expected to be completed on Sept. 14, 2008.

Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. could not give full details of the committed funding but said the ADB requested for an official list of the projects Mrs. Arroyo mentioned in her State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 24, and formally informed economic managers of their intention to support the projects for the super regions.

The "SONA projects," which cost a total of P372.6 billion at least until 2010, are meant to jumpstart the country’s economy, Andaya said, adding that if fully realized, the funding commitments would boost the existing budget for the pump-priming projects.

He said four rail projects –including the one that would complete the MRT/LRT loop around Metro Manila and a track that would run from Malolos City in Bulacan to Legazpi City in Albay — account for 48 percent of the total cost or P180 billion.

Second to have the biggest share is road projects, making up 27 percent of the proposed expenditures with a total cost of P101.8 billion for 26 "road packages," each consisting of several road projects.

Twenty-three airport development projects — four of which are in the international category — have a projected cost of P43.1 billion or 11 percent of the pie.

The rest are shared by seaports (P15.8 billion), irrigation (P12.6 billion), bridges (P5 billion) and an assortment of projects worth P13.5 billion, ranging from windmills to machine-readable passports to refrigerated warehouses.

Andaya said the funding from China would likely come in the form of joint ventures or build-operate-transfer projects while Japan’s contribution would likely be through foreign assistance funding, also known as official development assistance.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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