‘Build Better More’ sets 194 projects worth P9 trillion
The National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Board, which is chaired by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., approved on Thursday 194 high-impact priority projects worth P9 trillion, among them the rehabilitation of the decades-old Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia), as part of the government’s “Build Better More” program.
At a Palace briefing, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said 123 of the 194 infrastructure flagship projects (IFPs) were new, which means that only 71 were carried over from the previous administrations, including the ongoing Metro Manila Subway project under former President Rodrigo Duterte and the North-South Commuter Railway venture under then President Benigno S. Aquino III.
The Naia rehabilitation was classified as a new project because it did not push through when it was proposed during the Duterte administration.
Balisacan said some of the new projects on the list are the Panay Railway Project, the third phase of the Mindanao Railway Project, the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) Diliman Hospital, the North Long Haul component of the North-South Railway, the Ilocos Sur Transbasin Irrigation project, the San Mateo Railway and the Metro Cebu Expressway.
The Metro Cebu Expressway is a 74-kilometer expressway that, once completed, will connect the Cebu North Road in Danao to the Naga-Uling Road in Naga and serve as an alternative north-south backbone highway for the province.
The UP-PGH Diliman project is envisioned to be a 400-bed public hospital, with potential for further expansion through an adjoining in-patient building, to be located in the Arboretum site within the campus of UP Diliman in Quezon City and provide multispecialty services. The new hospital, estimated to cost P21.3 billion to build, will provide much-needed additional hospital bed capacity for patients in Metro Manila and the nearby provinces of Bulacan and Rizal.
The 17-kilometer San Mateo railway, meanwhile, will have six stations and run through Marikina City, San Mateo and Rodriguez, Rizal. It will be connected to the LRT 2 via a feeder railway line.
The North Long-Haul venture is a railway system in northern Luzon covering around 800 kilometers and will connect the National Capital Region (NCR) and Regions 1, 2 and 3.Speed up rollout
The Ilocos Sur Transbasin and the Upper Banaoang Irrigation projects were proposed during the Aquino administration and integrated into one undertaking called the Ilocos Sur Irrigation Project (Isip) of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), but it did not prosper beyond the feasibility study phase. Balisacan said that out of the 194 priority infrastructure projects, 95 were ongoing and have been approved for implementation, eight have already secured government approval, 47 were undergoing project preparations, while the remaining 44 were undergoing preproject preparations.
The Inquirer tried to get a list of the projects, but was told by Neda: “We are just cleaning the list following the Neda Board discussion. We will inform you as soon as it is uploaded/available in the website.”
While the projects will adopt a mix of financing from various development partners or Official Development Assistance (ODA), the national government or the annual budget, Balisacan said the Marcos administration would speed up their rollout by strongly promoting the use of the public-private partnership (PPP) scheme, which he said was “one of the cross-cutting strategies likewise identified in the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028.”
The Neda chief said 45 of the IFPs are seen to be financed through these partnerships with the private sector.
“The government shall harness the financial and technical resources of the private sector, which allows the public sector to allocate its funds for greater investments in human capital development, especially to address the scarring in health and education due to the pandemic, and provide targeted assistance that protects vulnerable sectors from economic shocks,” Balisacan said.
The PPP mode is a long-term arrangement between a government agency and private companies. It involves using private capital to finance government projects, such as toll roads, hospitals and airports, and then allowing the private financiers to collect fees from users over the duration of the PPP contract. Its main advantage is that it helps a cash-strapped government build much-needed public infrastructure at no money outlay on its part.
To ensure the quality and timeliness of project execution, Balisacan said the Neda board designated Neda as the lead agency to monitor the implementation of the IFPs.
“The new IFPs are seen to address the binding constraints to business investment and expansion that will create more high-quality and resilient jobs that will allow us to meet our poverty reduction goals for the medium-term,” he said.
According to the official, IFPs would be prioritized under the government’s annual budget preparation and would “enjoy the benefits of expedited issuance of applicable permits and licenses consistent with current legal frameworks.”
Asked if the IFPs would be finished within the Marcos administration, he said “the whole intention is to complete many of them as much as possible,” but admitted that most of the IFPs were long-term projects, such as the North Long Haul Railway, which would involve several years of development.
Other IFPs on the list, which he did not identify, include projects on physical connectivity and water resources, such as irrigation, water supply and flood management.
“In the next couple of years we shall be seeing many of these already operational, for example irrigation projects, many of these are irrigation projects, health projects, including the Cancer Center that we approved last time,” he said.
Aside from the updated IFP list, Balisacan said the Neda board, which held a meeting in Malacañang on Thursday, approved the proposed amendments to the 2013 Neda Joint Venture Guidelines (JVG) “to ensure that [these] are aligned with the provisions of the recently amended Build Operate Transfer, or BOT Law Implementing Rules and Regulations.”
“Today’s approval of the new IFP list and the amendments to the Neda [JVG] is a giant step toward our goal of elevating our competitiveness as we promote the Philippines as a prime investment destination in the region,” he said.
“So the amendments will involve putting in place features that improve the competitive processes in the selection of joint venture partners,” he said.
Balisacan pointed out that the IFPs would boost employment opportunities in the Philippines, citing the expected massive construction activities that would improve the investment climate in the country.