'Build, Build, Build': New projects dominate in overhaul of priority list

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The government overhauls its flagship projects under the "Build, Build, Build" program, with only 38 projects from the old roster making the cut.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 13) — The government's list of priority infrastructure projects went through a major overhaul, with only 32 of the original items making it to the new roster.

New items dominated the latest list of flagship projects, which has stretched to 100 items from 75 previously. The pipeline comes with a ₱4.23-trillion price tag, involving a mix of government funding, foreign loans and grants, and private money. Half of the projects will depend on official development assistance, while budgetary and public-private funding share an even split.

From the old list first released in November 2016, only 32 remained while 68 new projects have been included in the pipeline, according to a detailed matrix submitted by the economic team to the House of Representatives. The newest set of deliverables dropped bridges that will take long to build, and have been replaced by local road construction projects.

Projects seen to take over a decade to build, such as the Luzon-Samar and Bohol-Leyte Link Bridges by 2027 and the Cebu-Bohol and Cebu-Negros bridges by 2030, have been taken out of the priority list. The Department of Public Works and Highways also cancelled 10 bridge projects within Metro Manila which were due in 2023, and were supposed to be funded through loans from China and the Asian Development Bank.

Revised 'Build, Build, Build' list: Small projects in, difficult projects out

This flagship list is under the "Build, Build, Build" infrastructure development program that aims to spur and sustain economic growth and comes exactly three years after the Duterte administration unveiled the ambitious pipeline, touting to usher the country's "Golden Age of Infrastructure."

Additions

The development of Mindanao road networks, as well as the second phase of the reconstruction of Marawi — a city in Mindanao ravaged by a five-month firefight between Maute terrorists and soldiers — have been included in the priority roster. However, their completion is expected by end-2024.

Projects under public-private partnership deals have also taken their place on the list. The nearly-finished Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3 and the NLEX-SLEX Connector Road — both touted to ease Metro Manila road traffic — will be counted as the state's accomplishments, even if it did not spend a peso on these unsolicited proposals by big businesses.

Presidential Adviser for Flagship Programs and Projects Vivencio Dizon admitted that they chose the wrong projects three years ago, as some of those treated as previous priorities turned out to be either too expensive or not feasible at the moment.

"We're being honest, that's why we have to revisit [this list]... It's not feasible, so huwag muna nating gawin [let's not build this now]," Dizon said, referring to shelved projects.

As of end-July, only two projects from the old list have been completed: the Japan-funded drainage repairs along Pasig River, and the state-funded dredging of the Pulangi River. With the revamped list, 35 projects are now under construction, more than the 11 under the old tally. It's mainly because of a larger pipeline, Dizon explained.

All 100 flagship projects will begin under Duterte's term, Dizon said, with 38 completed by 2022 and 22 projects others partially operational. The economic team would leave about 40 projects for the succeeding administration to finish.

Projects are clustered into five categories, with transport and mobility as the priority accounting for 70 percent of the roster worth ₱3.84 trillion. This includes the state-funded upgrade of the Sangley Airport in Cavite, and the ₱734-billion New Manila International Airport in Bulacan fully funded by San Miguel Corporation.

Others provide power and energy (₱20 billion); water (₱163.43 billion); information and communications technology (₱80.83 billion), and urban development and renewal (₱13.34 billion).

The controversial China-funded Kaliwa Dam project got a counterpart in the list with a ₱56-billion Kanan Dam project that would supply to Luzon. Construction is targeted to end by 2026 even as the project is still being developed and funding has not been secured.

More PPPs

Dizon said the list would be "evolving," as authorities are open to accept more unsolicited proposals from the private sector.

He added that over 20 items under the new list are public-private partnership (PPP) deals, a big jump compared to the government's previous take that this arrangement often took too long. Now, they are more receptive to such ideas as long as proposals do not carry "disadvantageous" provisions for the state.

In a report, economic research firm Fitch Solutions said it expects the role of PPPs to "expand" under the "Build, Build, Build" program, with the country armed with a "comprehensive" framework when compared to neighboring countries.

However, it flagged that "slow reforms to tackle root issues such as bureaucratic inefficiencies will continue to be a source of risk for investors," and could cause delays in project rollout.

Meanwhile, 23 projects are fully funded by the government like the upgrades to the Sangley airport. Other additions are the ₱38.1-billion National Broadband Program, the ₱276.62 billion National Government Data Center, and even the ₱9.7-billion Philippine Identification System that will provide national IDs to all Filipinos and resident aliens.

READ: More PPPs in revised 'Build, Build, Build' list

Summary

By implementing agency: Department of Public Works and Highways (42), Department of Transportation (39), National Irrigation Administration (5), Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (4), Department of Information and Communications Technology (3), Department of the Interior and Local Government (1), Bases Conversion and Development Authority (1), Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (1), National Power Corporation (1), Philippine Statistics Authority (1), Private sector (2)

By funding source: Official development assistance (50), Public-private partnership (24), National budget (23), Private (2), one to be determined

By target completion: 12 due by 2020, 17 due by 2021, 26 due by 2022, 16 due by 2023, ten due by 2024, eight due by 2025, six due by 2026, two due by 2027, two due by 2028, and one to be determined

Check out the full list here:

CNN Philippines' Sandra Zialcita, Xave Gregorio, Vince Ferreras, Xianne Arcangel, and Dessy Bautista contributed to this report.