PH and Japan: the smarter partnership
Eclipsed by the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping was the more productive sixth meeting on infrastructure and economic cooperation between the Philippines and Japan, on the sidelines of which a forum with Philippine and Japanese businessmen, dubbed “New Clark City with Japan: creating a smart city with high quality infrastructure,” was organized by the Japan External Trade Organization or Jetro.
Over 200 Japanese business representatives joined another 200 Filipino representatives, including members of the Philippines-Japan Economic Cooperation Committee, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Makati Business Club, to listen to the special advisor to Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as well as speakers from Jetro, Hitachi, NEC, Tokyo Gas and Softank, who all shared about Japanese expertise and experience in urban development and how partnerships with the Philippines could be pursued.
Bases Conversion and Development Authority president and CEO Vince Dizon gave an update on progress on the master plan of the New Clark City project, which continues to be BCDA’s most ambitious project and one that is benefiting immensely from partnerships with Japan. Started as Clark Green City under the stewardship of the Aquino administration’s appointee Arnel Casanova, the development “is designed to be the country’s first smart, green and disaster-resilient city where nature, lifestyle, business, education and industries converge.” It has now become one of the centerpieces of the current administration’s Build, build, build program.
In pursuing smart city development, the Japanese have adopted as one key framework the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; the outcome must be to create a green, resilient, efficient, inclusive, innovative and creative community. Citing Minato Mirai 21 in Yokohama, Tsukuba Express in Tokyo and Koshigaya Lake Town as smart city projects, one speaker highlighted 10 key components for success: transit-oriented development, efficient and comprehensive use of land, human-centered design in urban space development, utilization of environmental resources of wind, water and green spaces, effective use of environmental technology in architecture, energy management based on latest technology, water management infrastructure, construction of safe and secure systems, creation of eco-friendly lifestyles in urban culture, and advanced urban business administration and management systems.
When asked about identifying other smart city projects in the Philippines beyond New Clark City, the Hitachi speaker reminded the group that technologies for a smart city do not come first. The issues and priorities must first be identified to develop a proper strategy, after which various technologies become tools to attain success.
In the Koshigaya Lake Town development, for example, the area was originally prone to flooding. The flood risk was turned into an opportunity for sustainable development when government and the private sector worked together to build a community around a floodwater retention pond, which became a lake for various community activities.
In pushing for more Philippine-Japan cooperation in urban development, Dr. Hiroto Abe, special advisor to the prime minister, highlighted how Japan has further accelerated its urban and smart city development projects. First, collaboration among Japan’s governmental organizations has been strengthened. Second, the period for a project’s preliminary study has been shortened from 5 years to 1.5 years. Third, consultants are selected before the pledge of a project, and construction period is shortened by one year. Finally, a support system has been set up based on collaboration between public and private sectors to promote large-scale private sector-driven projects, including funding and loans.
As the Duterte administration’s controversial pivot to China continues, it would be in our country’s best interests to further nurture and accelerate our partnership with the Japanese government and Japanese business, which has already generated very positive and tangible results. Seeing the entire economic team led by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno at the business to business meeting augurs well for our long-term partnerships with Japan.
Peter Angelo V. Perfecto ([email protected] gmail.com) is public affairs director of the Phinma group and former executive director of the Makati Business Club.
Business Matters is a project of the Makati Business Club.
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