Gov’t maps two-track approach for construction catch-up

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 28) — The economic team has taken a two-pronged take to catch up with delayed infrastructure projects this year, racing against time halfway through the Duterte administration.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said they are counting on multiple contractors to carry out components of every project, as well as a 24/7 construction scheme to fast-track project implementation.

“We increased the number of contractors, the number of hours. We are caught up right now. For some projects, it’s advanced,” Tugade said in part two of CNN Philippines’ “Building for the Future” forum on Wednesday.

He pointed out that some rail projects like the Metro Manila Subway are ahead of schedule by two months.

CNN Philippines again gathered government officials and private sector representatives to assess the progress on the government’s “Build, Build, Build” program. The Duterte administration is pouring over ₱8 trillion to build 75 big-ticket infrastructure projects until 2022. The goal is to improve connectivity and mass transport to spur economic growth, create more jobs, and lift millions of Filipinos out of poverty.

For transport projects under “Build, Build, Build,” about 30-35 percent have been set back by the four-month delay in the passage of the 2019 national budget.

“Because of that effect, we thought the catch-up plan will certainly be able to put us on track,” Tugade said.

Public Works Secretary Mark Villar said his agency could still speed up spending for the rest of the year. So far, the department has spent about ₱300 billion of the ₱750 billion programmed for 2019.

“A supermajority of our projects are slated to be finished by 2022,” Villar assured.

Tugade said the government is pushing for some big-ticket projects to become at least partially operational before President Rodrigo Duterte’s term ends in mid-2022.

“If I make 70-75 percent (of projects), I’ll be happy,” he added. “We are introducing partial operability: they can be operational as the projects progress. It has to be admitted that some projects will not be finished during Duterte’s term.”

Only 11 of the 75 flagship projects are currently under construction, with less than three years left for this administration.