September 13, 2017 / 7:01 AM / in 3 months

Philippines approves $7.6 billion for subway, other infrastructure projects

MANILA (Reuters) - An interagency panel chaired by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has approved four major infrastructure projects worth 386.3 billion pesos ($7.59 billion), including bridges, roads and the country’s first subway.

The Philippines, one of the world’s fastest growing economies, is overhauling its aging infrastructure to boost its competitiveness, create jobs and attract foreign firms hesitant about power costs, logistics headaches and supply chains challenges.

The approval and eventual completion of these projects “will pave the way for us to achieve our mid-term and long-term goals” as a nation, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said.

The latest bundle brings the total number of approved projects to 35 worth 1.2 trillion pesos ($23.6 billion) since Duterte took office in July 2016.

FILE PHOTO: Commuters ride a makeshift trolley over a railroad bridge as a cheaper and faster alternative mode of transportation in metro Manila, Philippines January 25, 2017. Picture taken January 25, 2017. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

The biggest plan approved on Tuesday was the 355.6 billion pesos Metro Manila Subway Project, the first of its kind in the Philippines, and seen as an urgently needed solution to the sprawling capital’s notorious gridlock.

It will be funded by overseas aid from Japan and construction is expected to start early next year.

FILE PHOTO: Philippines 'President Rodrigo Duterte stands at attention during a courtesy call with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Ministers in Manila, Philippines, September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Pool/Mark Cristino

Also endorsed was the expansion of roads in the southern Philippines worth 21.2 billion pesos, construction of bridges in Manila valued at 6 billion pesos and the improvement of an irrigation system north of the capital, worth 3.5 billion pesos.

Under the government’s “Build, Build, Build” initiative, Duterte has pledged to usher in a golden age of infrastructure through a six-year, $180 billion spending spree to modernize and build airports, roads, railways and ports.

A construction boom and a strong agriculture sector fueled annual growth of 6.5 percent in the Philippines’ gross domestic product in the second quarter.

Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Martin Petty and Richard Borsuk

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