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House panel OKs bill mandating agencies to pursue PPP projects as priority


The House public works and highways panel on Thursday approved a bill mandating government agencies to pursue public-private partnership (PPP) projects as priorities and remove bottlenecks in implementing them.

Under the proposed PPP bill authored by House Ways and Means panel chairperson Joey Salceda of Albay and Deputy Speaker Ralph Recto of Batangas, government agencies must include priority projects that may be undertaken as PPP projects in their development plans, strategies and investment programs.

In identifying those projects, government agencies should use the following criteria:

  • effectiveness in meeting government objectives,
  • accountability and transparency,
  • consumer rights,
  • affordability,
  • public access,
  • safety, and
  • security.

Likewise, such priority projects should be consistent with the Philippine Development Plan or its equivalent at the local level.

No TROs

In addition, the proposed PPP bill prohibits courts from issuing temporary restraining orders (TRO), preliminary injunctions, or preliminary mandatory injunctions against any implementing government agency, its officials or employees, or any person or entity, whether public or private acting under the government direction, to restrain, prohibit or compel the following acts:

  • bidding, rebidding  or declaration of failure of  bidding of PPP projects, either national or local;
  • qualification or disqualification of bidders;
  • awarding of PPP contract;
  • acceptance of any unsolicited PPP project proposal, even if not acted upon by the implementing agency concerned under Section 9 of the bill;
  • acquisition, clearance, development of the right-of-way, site or location of any PPP project;
  • construction, operation and maintenance of any PPP project;
  • commencement, execution, implementation, termination  or rescission of any PPP contract; and
  • undertaking or authorization of any other lawful activity necessary for such PPP project or contract.

The prohibition on the issuance of the TRO or any injunction, however, does not cover the Supreme Court.

“The Philippines is envisioned as a country that has high sustainable growth, generates mass employment and enjoys reduced poverty. Towards this end, encouraging PPPs should be a means to develop the country's infrastructure in all sectors and secure our economic global ranking,” Recto said in his explanatory note on the measure.

“It is therefore of utmost importance to revisit Republic Act No. 6957, as amended by Republic Act No. 7718 or the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) law,” Recto added.

Conglomerates

Salceda, for his part, said that conglomerates in the country that previously participated in PPP projects recorded P585 billion in capital expenditures in 2021 alone amid a pandemic, and could be a useful resource when pursuing PPP projects.

These conglomerates, Salceda said, include San Miguel Corporation, Megaworld, Ayala Corporation, Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Metro Pacific Investments, SM Investments, First Philippine Holdings, Filinvest Development Corporation, LTG, GT Capital, and ICTSI.

“There is at least P27 trillion in financial resources available in the banking sector, and around P600 billion annually in just the large conglomerates every year for private sector financing of PPPs. We need that with current elevated debt levels. Expertise, operational flexibility, and network of the private sector will be crucial in completing high-priority, big-ticket projects," Salceda said during Thursday's public hearing on the measure.

“More than just the financing, it’s the private sector’s ability to get things done. We need that. The most important principle of PPPs must be that the public interest being pursued outweighs any private interest involved in the project. Considering the unique powers and resources that the public will invest in the project (even without outright public spending), the public interest should be vastly greater than the private interest,” Salceda added. — BM, GMA Integrated News

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