The vice chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations on Tuesday said the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build,” or BBB infrastructure program, is now expected to shift to higher gear ​following Japan’s reaffirmation to provide ¥1 trillion in aid and investments to the Philippines.

Party-list Rep. Luis Raymund F. Villafuerte of Camarines Sur said the “solid” reaffirmation of Japan’s earlier pledge to provide ¥1 trillion is clear proof that the Philippines is starting to reap the fruits of its unique foreign policy rebalancing since President Duterte took over the reins of government last year.

“President Duterte’s bold move to shift the Philippines’s economic-diplomacy priority toward our Asean neighbors and regional superpowers like Japan, China and South ​Korea is one example of his nontraditional leadership style that has endeared him to the Filipino masses as shown by the public’s continued, ​overwhelming support for him,” Villafuerte said in a news statement.

The lawmaker, citing a joint statement released by the governments of the Philippines and Japan after Duterte’s three-day official visit to Tokyo, said areas of infrastructure cooperation over the next five years will include the construction and operation of a subway system in metropolitan Manila, increasing connectivity between regions through the construction of roads and bridges, and reinforcing rivers to manage the risk of flooding.

Earlier, Duterte said he and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe talked of “concrete, time-bound and specific ways to further intensify bilateral cooperation” which is highlighted by Japan’s support for the Philippines’s ​“Build, Build, Build” ​program.

The BBB infrastructure program is the centerpiece of the Duterte administration’s high and inclusive growth agenda.

The government plans to line up several projects, including the P37.76-billion Metro Manila Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Line 2 for financing assistance from South Korea.

“Apparently, President Duterte’s remarkable prescience in his foreign policy rebalancing has proven him right in making the crucial pivot to Asia,​ considering​ US President Trump’s victory on the back of his ‘America First’ campaign battlecry ​and the recent events in Europe that​ strongly indicate a return to trade protectionism by Western economic powers,” Villafuerte added.

The lawmaker earlier said the President’s popular support will continue “given that ​Malacañang has apparently been pursuing without letup his ambitious BBB infrastructure program complemented by increasing investments in education, health and other social services, both of which are to be funded in part by the first tax-reform package that Duterte himself ​has endorsed for congressional approval.”

​“President Duterte’s no-nonsense campaign against corruption and crime, his programs to improve the ease of doing business to attract more investments that will create quality jobs for our people, and his tax reform program that will support the government’s massive investment strategy are among his priority initiatives that show he is bent on realizing his steadfast commitment to finally make economic growth inclusive for all Filipinos,” he said.

By Jovee Marie de la Cruz