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World Bank raised Philippines’ pending projects with Marcos, economic team, says NEDA chief

The World Bank has raised the issues involving pending projects in the Philippines it committed to finance but have yet to be operational, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan told senators on Wednesday.

At the presentation of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) before the Senate Committee on Finance, Balisacan said the pending projects were among the topics discussed with the economic team in New York.

“In our meeting with the World Bank in New York with the President, they raised this issue actually, that all these long pending projects — that rapid transport in Cebu, in Davao,” Balisacan said.

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and members of the economic cluster last month had a working trip to the United States for an economic briefing and to entice investors.

The trip is expected to generate close to $4-billion worth of investments.

Balisacan said among the projects raised by the World Bank was the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), with a loan agreement of over $100 million inked in October 2014.

Balisacan said the project had been stalled due to issues concerning right-of-way.

The pending projects are going to be among the topics which will be discussed with Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista in a meeting next week.

According to its briefer with the World Bank, the project seeks to improve the performance of the urban passenger transport system in the Project Corridor in Cebu City.

The World Bank already disbursed $290,000 in December 2014; $5 million in June 2015; $6.977 million in June 2016; $2.588 million in January 2019; $794,321 in May 2019; $247,197 in January 2020; $1.806 million in February 2020; $1.941 million in January 2021; and $2.429 million in October 2021.

The project has already incurred interests and charges, with the latest being $107,753 in May this year.

Data from the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Center show that the project involves the management of the Cebu BRT system over a 13.18-kilometer corridor which passes through Mambaling up to the IT Park with 17 stations.

GMA News Online has reached out to the DOTr for the latest updates on the project, but no response has been received as of this posting.

Senator Nancy Binay on Wednesday said that the project had been stalled for years with the country engaging in a loan which continues to run even as the project has not materialized.

She already questioned the delay in 2020, when former Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade at that time assured the public that the project would push through, modified to suit the conditions of Cebu’s streets.

Balisacan said the NEDA Board — chaired by Marcos — would have to convene to determine whether or not to push through with the project, and the DOTr will have to put it on the agenda.

The NEDA Secretary said the agency was revisiting a number of infrastructure projects, and is moving to develop an achievable pipeline in the coming years.

“We are refreshing and restrengthening our PPP Center to be able to get these projects because as you have heard the President, he is in a hurry to complete all these projects,” Balisacan said.

“The approach that we are taking is to open up all avenues for investment and finance for our infrastructure, whether it’s ODA (official development assistance) or borrowing or PPP,” he said.

“We have heard the President saying in many occasions about the prospects for PPP and we do, we are now preparing for that,” he added. —NB, GMA News