'Build, Build, Build' to fuel PH economy 'bounce back' – Dominguez

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Metro Manila (CNN Philppines, April 13)— The administration's flagship infrastructure program "Build, Build, Build" will be a steady force in the Philippines' recovery plan amid the COVID-19 crisis, with a top official saying it will be the country's "fuel" for an economic "bounce back."

Finance Secretary Carlos "Sonny" Dominguez III told CNN Philippines Monday that the government should likewise focus on infrastructure developments as a way of pump priming the economy.

"We have not downgraded our Build, Build, Build. That is going to be the fuel that will push, that will fuel our bounce back," Dominguez said in an interview with The Source.

The government’s Build, Build, Build program went through a major overhaul late last year, with several big-ticket infrastructure projects dropped from the original priority list.

Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar earlier said authorities had to be “efficient” and prioritize those which are economically feasible.

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

The flagship program was unveiled by President Rodrigo Duterte's administration back in 2016, with the plan touted to usher the country's "Golden Age of Infrastructure."

RELATED: ‘Build, Build, Build’ not a failure - Public Works chief

Loans to close gaps

The COVID-19 crisis is meanwhile expected to result in job losses not only for local workers, but also for overseas Filipinos around the world.

A recruitment and migrant expert said the global pandemic may displace around 50,000 to 100,000 OFWs, which will in turn lower OFW remittances.

Lockdown measures imposed in Luzon and different other regions of the country also prompted grace periods and extensions of bills payments, including taxes.

With gaps seen in the national funding, Dominguez said the government, in the meantime, will lean on loans.

"We will close the gap by our borrowing," the Finance Department chief said.

The World Bank earlier approved a $500 million (about ₱25 billion) loan to support the country's efforts in the fight against COVID-19. Dominguez also raised the possibility of borrowing from the Asian Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Dominguez, however, stressed the government will only seek help from the commercial market if funds generated internally and from the loans are still not enough.