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WITH ONLY 9 OF 75 'BUILD, BUILD, BUILD' PROJECTS UNDERWAY

Drilon blasts Duterte’s infra program as ‘dismal failure’

/ 02:43 PM November 12, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Tuesday slammed as a “dismal failure” the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program, citing that only nine of the 75 flagship projects have started construction.

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Drilon, in an interview with reporters at the Senate, said the execution of the program was “simply dismal.”

“Sad to say, this ‘Build, Build, Build’ program of this administration is a dismal failure. Out of the 75 flagship projects that were proposed at this to this administration, exactly nine have started construction, that’s only two percent of the total,” he pointed out.

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“We have only two years and a half years left of this administration, I don’t think any substantial progress in so far as the program is concerned will be achieved as I would repeat the execution is simply dismal,” he added.

During the Senate deliberations on the proposed 2020 national budget, Drilon had asked for the status of the projects under the Duterte’s “Build, Build, Build” program.

“We barely have less than three years to go, so how many more are we expected to start and when will they be finished?” Drilon asked.

However, the National Economic and Development Authority was only able to present the number of projects expected to be finished until 2022.

Citing figures relayed to him by NEDA, Senator Sonny Angara said 12 projects are expected to be completed by 2020, 17 projects by 2021, and another 26 projects by 2022.

“Forty-three will be completed beyond 2022,” Angara, chair of the Senate finance committee, told Drilon.

But Drilon was not convinced the concerned government agencies could pull this off.

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“They have only started nine projects. How can you say 40 will be completed in 2 years’ time?” Drilon noted.

“The problem of underspending, the problem of the bureaucracy not being able to respond, the problem of ill-advised projects, these are all problems that must be threshed out and I don’t know whether there is still time,” he added.

“Unfortunately, when we asked that question on the floor they could not even provide us with what the project that are supposed to be scrapped, what are the projects that are supposed to be included…if simply on information they could not even provide us with the correct information…if the bureaucracy could not even respond correctly to the request for information you could imagine their capacity to actually implement the projects,” he further said.

Senator Sonny Angara, who was defending the proposed budget, said that the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) decided to defer or scrap some of the program’s big-ticket projects due to “technical, financial or economic non-viability.”

“(NEDA) Secretary (Ernesto) Pernia has been mentioning that they’re going to revise the 75 (projects) kasi nakita nila hindi talaga mai-roll out yung iba so nire-revise nila to more doable or shovel-ready projects. So, we’ve been waiting for that list,” Angara said.

Pursuing Lacson’s line of questioning on updates concerning the “Build, Build, Build” program, Drilon inquired about the number of flagship projects that have commenced actual construction.

“The revised list will be around 100 projects,” Angara told Drilon.

But Drilon responded said that such projects would mean “nothing until there is actual disbursement.”

“We can have a thousand projects, that’s all theoretical…Because we can say that the project has started in terms of feasibility study, there’s nothing to that in terms of the project contributing to our (gross domestic product),” he said.

“It is actual construction where there are actual disbursements, that would propel our economy” he added.

Drilon again inquired about the status of the flagship projects under the administration’s infrastructure program.

“We barely have less than three years to go, so how many more are we expected to start and when will they be finished?” Drilon asked.

However, the NEDA was only able to present the number of projects expected to be finished until 2022.

Citing figures relayed to him by NEDA, Angara said 12 projects are expected to be completed by 2020, 17 projects by 2021, and another 26 projects by 2022.

“Forty-three will be completed beyond 2022,” he told Drilon.

But Drilon was not convinced the concerned government agencies could pull this off.

“They have only started nine projects. How can you say 40 will be completed in 2 years’ time?” Drilon noted in an interview with reporters.

“The problem of underspending, the problem of the bureaucracy not being able to respond, the problem of ill-advised projects, these are all problems that must be threshed out and I don’t know whether there is still time,” he added.

“Unfortunately, when we asked that question on the floor they could not even provide us with what the projects that are supposed to be scrapped, what are the projects that are supposed to be included…if simply on information they could not even provide us with the correct information…if the bureaucracy could not even respond correctly to the request for information you could imagine their capacity to actually implement the projects,” Drilon further said.

Among the nine projects, Angara said, include three road projects in Clark, two bridges—the Binondo-Intramuros bridge and the refurbishing of Estrella-Pantaleon bridge—and the Clark airport.

Economic ties with China

“What I recall is that the 75 projects would be part of the economic relationship between China and the Philippines. Apparently that aspect of (the) relation between the two countries is a total failure,” Drilon said.

He also said that the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) “are the worst performers in terms of the ability to disburse.”

A recent report by the Commission on Audit showed that the two agencies had been having difficulty in spending their annual budgets.

COA’s report showed that the DPWH spent only one-third of its allocated budget in 2017 while the DOTr spent only 26 percent in 2017 and 21 percent in 2018.

‘Dismal failure’?

Asked about Drilon’s earlier remark on the administration’s infrastructure program, Angara said: “I wouldn’t use that language na dismal failure.”

“Pero mahirap talaga dahil malalaking proyekto yan. Kumbaga, matagal na rin tayong hindi nakagawa ng malalaking proyekto na yan, so kailangan natin ng tulong dyan,” he added.

(But it is really hard because the projects are massive. It had been a long time that we undertook big-ticket projects, so we really need help with that).

The senator, meanwhile, attributed the slow progress of the said flagship projects to right-of-way issues.

“Top of mind bottlenecks? Yung mga feasibility study. Because yun ang natatagalan. Yung ibang construction, – yung right of way I think is one of the biggest bottlenecks,” he said.

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