MANILA -- The Philippines will have its first metro grade train system, with the capacity to carry about one million passengers a day, by 2022.

This, after Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Director-General Shigenori Ogawa signed Monday the PHP80.47 billion loan agreement, which is the first tranche of Japan’s financing support for the North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR) Extension Project.

The 147-km. NSCR Extension Project of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) has three components, the 38-kilometer line from Manila to Malolos, Bulacan; the 53-km. line from Malolos, Bulacan to Clark, Pampanga; and the 56-km. line from Manila to Calamba, Laguna.

With a total project cost of about PHP628.42 billion, it is, thus far, the biggest combined project under government's “Build, Build, Build” program.

“The economic benefits of improved mobility for our commuters in this very large urban sprawl will far outweigh the total investment for this project,” Dominguez said.

Dominguez, during the loan signing ceremony, said government again adopted the “fast and sure” approach since processing of the loan, including that of the PHP18.22-billion funding for the fourth phase of the Pasig-Marikina River Channel Improvement Project, was done within two months.

“This is, by far, the fastest loan processing time in the history of Philippines-Japan bilateral cooperation. We would like to share the credit here with our counterparties, who espoused the same sense of urgency and trusted our commitment to get these projects done,” he said.

Department of Transportation Undersecretary Timothy John Batan, during the same event, disclosed that initial operations of the rail system is targeted to be in 2022.

Projected passengers during the initial runs is about 350,000 per day, he said.

“But the railway can accommodate up to 1.1 million passengers per day,” he said.

Relatively, PNR General Manager Junn Magno, during the same loan signing ceremony, said since this particular train system can accommodate about a million passengers a day during its full operations by 2023 this will be the country’s first metro-grade train system.

He said both the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) are metro-grade systems, but have lighter capacities.

“This is our first metro grade (rail) system, meaning it can reach one million in capacity. The capacity is there, passengers na lang ang kulang. (we just need the passengers),” he added.

DOF said the financing for the NSCR Extension has an interest rate of 0.1 percent per annum for non-consulting services and 0.01 percent per annum for consulting services. It is repayable within 40 years, inclusive of a 12-year grace period. (PNA)