With only two months left before the Duterte administration steps down, top officials said the government is successful in ushering in the “golden age of infrastructure,” which was promised by President Rodrigo Duterte when he unveiled an P8-trillion infrastructure program at the start of his tenure.
This, despite a report by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) that only 12 out of 119 infrastructure flagship projects (IFP) were completed to date, totaling P70.65 billion or 1.4% of the P5.08 trillion total cost of investments to complete the 119 IFPs.
Three largest projects completed in terms of cost include the MRT-3 Rehabilitation Project at P21.966 billion, the New Clark City Phase 1 at P18 billion, and the Clark International Airport Expansion project at P14.972 billion.
At a press conference during the 5th Inter-agency IFP Forum in Pasay City on Wednesday, Public Works Undersecretary Emil Sadain said that ushering in the “Golden Age of Infrastructure” is still a success.
“Yes. As I’ve mentioned, coming with a huge package of infrastructure projects is not an ordinary task. If you compare that with previous administrations, it entails a huge effort both technical and financial, operations,” Sadain said.
The Public Works official, who is also the chief implementer of flagship projects under the Build, Build, Build (BBB) program, noted that infrastructure spending during the Duterte administration hit a high 5.9% of gross domestic product (GDP), “this far beyond normal standard,” which is at 5% of GDP.
“The past many administrations have never prepared this kind of momentum of projects,” Sadain said.
National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Undersecretary Roderick Planta echoed Sadain, saying that the “headline metric” in measuring the success of the Build, Build, Build program is infrastructure expenditure as a percentage of GDP.
“[A]nd we’re consistently hitting at the minimum 5% of GDP and this is at least twice what was spent or as compared to previous decades of infrastructure development,” Planta said.
Nonetheless, Sadain said an additional seven IFPs will be completed by June this year - the last month of the Duterte regime - which include the Unified Grand Central Station and the LRT2 East Extension projects.
Meanwhile, 12 projects are set to be completed by December 2022, which include the MRT 7 (P75 billion), Metro Manila Skyway Stage (P65.39 billion), Southeast Metro Manila Expressway (P45.29 billion), and C5 Southlink Expressway (P12.645 billion).
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the government’s development partners, expressed satisfaction on the outcome of the Duterte administration’s IFPs.
In particular, ADB Country Director Kelly Bird said, “To sum it up, it’s been hugely successful to be able to get public spending above 5% more or less consistently... the railway projects, the extension of road networks and bridges, and these are lifting up long term economic growth and creating jobs and are also important for economic recovery.”
For his part, newly-appointed JICA Philippines chief representative Sakamoto Takema said, “I’m very positive for the Philippine BBB Policy and we are very happy to support that.”
Transition to next admin
Meanwhile, Sadain said a total 88 of IFPs will be up for the next administration to continue which include big ticket projects such as the Metro Manila Subway project, Mindanao Railway project, and the North South Commuter Railway project.
Planta expressed confidence that the 88 remaining IFPs will be continued by the next administration.
“Basically these have been approved through the ICC (Investment Coordination Committee) process. We can make a case if they so desire to explain these things again. It will be continued because the projects make sense,” Planta said.
Sadain, likewise, said that “the next administration should sustain the momentum if we want to have a holistic benefit.”
Budget Assistant Secretary Rolando Toledo also pinned hopes that whoever wins the presidential race on May 9 will continue the Build, Build, Build program.
“Build, Build, Build will be continued even after the next administration, taking into consideration the statements of candidates,” Toledo said, noting that presidential bets announced the infrastructure development paths they will undertake such as focusing on social infrastructure, planning to build more digital network infrastructure, and mass housing.
Sadain, however, cited six major challenges in infrastructure development that the next administration will need to address, namely contract management, planning and technical operation, acquisitions of road right-of-way, fiscal management, utilization and expiration of loans, and strengthening of organizational structure.
“The Golden Age of Infrastructure does not stop with this administration it goes beyond the succeeding administrations — if we want to ensure there will be a closure in the infrastructure gap comparatively with neighboring countries,” Sadain said.—LDF, GMA News