DPWH chief says big-ticket 'Build, Build, Build' projects will push through despite COVID-19 crisis

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 27) - The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) says infrastructure projects will proceed as planned, but that timelines may have to be adjusted.

DPWH Secretary Mark Villar told CNN Philippines that big-ticket projects under the government's 'Build Build Build' program will push through despite the COVID-19 crisis.

"The big-ticket projects are still a go. We have not given up on any projects," Villar said. "Of course magkaroon ng konting delay, kailangan ma-adjust yung timeline ng konti, but overall, once we achieve the new normal, I believe that we will get the 'Build Build Build' back on track."

[Translation: Of course we'll experience a little delay, the timeline needs to be adjusted, but overall, once we achieve the new normal, I believe that we will get the 'Build Build Build' back on track.]

The Duterte administration launched the 'Build, Build, Build' program in 2016, which aims to spur and sustain economic growth by constructing infrastructure projects badly needed by the country, including longer and wider roads, convenient train systems, and improved airports and seaports.

In November 2019, 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.

Presidential Adviser for Flagship Programs and Projects Vivencio Dizon had said that 38 of the 100 flagship projects under the program will be completed by 2022, while 22 other projects will be partially operational.

President Rodrigo Duterte will end his term at noon on June 30, 2022.

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

Villar also told CNN Philippines that funding for the infrastructure projects is a different issue.

"We'll see how the funding of the national government will be affected, how long this COVID-19 [will last] but of course that's a situation beyond our control," Villar said.

The government planned to spend over ₱1 trillion this year on various construction projects, in keeping with the administration's promise to usher in a "Golden Age of Infrastructure."

Malacañang earlier said the President is open to dropping infrastructure projects scheduled this year to free up funds for COVID-19 response.

READ: Duterte open to dropping infrastructure projects for more COVID-19 funding

With the help of the private sector, the DPWH said it has already proposed guidelines for post-quarantine construction work to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

"We have a lot of infrastructure projects lined up so it's very important that we find a way to continue these projects while maintaining a high level of safety for our workers," Villar said.

The public works secretary said they are proposing additional safety measures, such as having medical personnel on hand, the monitoring of the movements of construction workers, and having additional facilities for washing and disinfection.

"We are proposing that they be tested, all the workers prior to entering the site must go through medical examination, must go through COVID-19 testing to ensure that they are not carriers of the virus," Villar said.

The DPWH also proposed the housing of construction workers at project sites.

"After entering, we are proposing that they be limited to their living quarters for the duration of the project. This is so that we monitor their movements and ensure none of them will bring COVID-19 into the worksite," Villar said.

"We believe this will ensure the safety of the workers, and the possibility of having them together could contribute to the spread will be significantly reduced if not eliminated," he added.

Villar said those found violating the government's guidelines will be penalized.