Asian Development Bank (ADB) has signed an agreement with the Government of the Philippines to provide $1.3bn loan for the construction of the Malolos–Clark Railway Project.

The agreement was signed by Philippine Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and ADB vice-president Ahmed M Saeed.

This loan is the first tranche of the total $2.75bn required for the project.

The Malolos–Clark railway is part of the North-South Commuter Railway project (NSCR), which aims to connect New Clark City to Calamba by 2025.

This project will see the construction of an elevated railway line, with a maximum train speed of 160km/h.

Once operational, the line is expected to ease chronic road congestion in and around Metro Manila, cut down air pollution, reduce transport and logistics costs and boost economic growth.

Saeed said: “Our work in the Philippines has always held a special place in the history of ADB. Now, under President Duterte’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ infrastructure programme, ADB is considerably scaling up its own support to the government.

“The Malolos–Clark Railway Project is ADB’s single largest infrastructure project financing ever at $2.75bn. We are pleased to be supporting this important flagship project in our host country.”

NSCR is a 163km suburban railway network running from New Clark City in Tarlac province in the north to Calamba in Laguna province in the south of Manila.

The Malolos–Clark Railway Project will transport approximately 342,000 passengers daily along the Manila–Clark corridor and up to 696,000 passengers per day to Calamba by 2025.

The NSCR project is being co-financed by JICA with additional financing up to $2bn for the rolling stock and railway systems.

Contracts to carry out civil works under the project are being auctioned out. The first contract awards are expected in the fourth quarter of this year.

ADB’s financial assistance to the Philippines is expected to reach $2.5bn this year, more than double its average annual financing of $1bn in the last three years.