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PH embraces private firms in altered ‘Build, Build, Build’

| November 7, 2019

The Duterte administration on Wednesday expanded its banner infrastructure program to 100 “flagship” projects, with over a fourth to be rolled out through public-private partnership (PPP).

Apart from the comprehensive “Build, Build, Build” list, the Investment Coordination Committee-Cabinet Committee (ICC-CabCom) and the Cabinet-level Committee on Infrastructure (InfraCom) also gave their go-ahead to Aboitiz Group’s unsolicited proposal to operate and maintain the New Panglao Bohol International Airport, also a PPP project.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia told reporters the powerful ICC-CabCom also approved the following projects: Samal-Davao Bridge, Davao Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and Camarines Sur Highway.

Presidential adviser for flagship programs and projects Vivencio Dizon said in an interview the updated “Build, Build, Build” list now included 26 PPP projects.

The previous list comprised of 75 big-ticket projects had only nine with private sector participation—eight PPPs and one to be entirely rolled out by a private contractor.

Dizon, who is also president and chief executive of state-run Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), said the 100 flagship projects would amount to at least P4.2 trillion, although the entire program would still cost up to P8 trillion.

Other major PPP projects such as the new Bohol airport, the San Miguel Corp. (SMC)-led Bulacan International Airport and the rehabilitation of the country’s main gateway Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) to be undertaken by seven conglomerates were included on the new list, Dizon said.

He added the inclusion of more projects involving the private sector was a “testament that the government is not against PPPs as long as contracts are advantageous to the government.”

“PPP projects under the Duterte administration should promote public interest. In other words, PPPs must be for the people. Unfortunately, PPP concession agreements executed in the past failed to promote public interest,” Dizon said.

He said the Duterte administration would no longer allow provisions that left the government shortchanged in the past: automatic rate increases; commitments of non-interference; and noncompete clauses, which stripped it of the ability to require concessionaires to improve services.

Dizon said the updated “Build, Build, Build” list would include ongoing projects. Some would be completed within the Duterte administration and some to be “substantially completed” by 2022.

“Included in the list are the Metro Manila Subway Project, North South Commuter Railway, Clark International Airport Expansion Project, Cebu Monorail System, Panay-Guimaras Negros Bridge, Samal Island-Davao City Connector Bridge, and the Mindanao Rail Project,” Dizon added.

“The list is also an evolving list as new projects of national and regional importance will be included later on, especially in Visayas and Mindanao.”