Duterte's infrastructure legacy: 18 out of 119 on his list

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 8) — When President Rodrigo Duterte steps down in June this year, he will leave an infrastructure legacy that is barely a fifth of his 119 flagship projects under his "Build Build Build" program - passing on to his successor the duty of sustaining the "golden age of infrastructure" that his administration began.

Public Works Undersecretary Emil Sadain, the chief implementer of the "Build Build Build" program, said 18 out of the 119 projects on the list will be delivered by June. Collectively, the completed projects cost ₱82.039 billion - just a fraction of the ₱4.7-trillion ambitious infrastructure program.

To his merit, the Duterte administration raised infrastructure spending to 5.3% of economic output or gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021, and to an expected 5.8% of GDP by end-2022 from just 3% when his term started, according to data from Sadain's office.

But the President's 18 legacy projects neither counted big-ticket railways and subways nor the inter-island mega bridges mostly in the Visayas and Mindanao. One unfinished business is a 4-kilometer bridge that will connect the tropical Samal Island to Davao City, Duterte's hometown.

The pandemic was to blame for the setback, according to his chief implementer. Shuttling foreign technical consultants and the machines needed for the projects had been hampered by border restrictions.

"It's really a barrier that caused delays not only on civil works but also on the detailed engineering design phase," Sadain told reporters in a virtual briefing on Tuesday.

"Most of these machines have to be brought into the Philippines to ensure a more accurate measurement, especially on the geotechnical analysis for bridges like the Bataan-Cavite, Davao-Samal bridge and even the Panguil Bay bridge," he explained.

Of the 18 projects, 11 have already been launched and operational between 2018 and last year - including the Sangley Point International Airport and the airports in Clark and General Santos as well as New Clark City, and a road network that cuts travel time from Bonifacio Global City to Ortigas from 40 minutes to just 12.

Seven more are expected to be delivered in the remaining months of Duterte's term as the Public Works department already sought an exemption from a Commission on Elections (Comelec) ban against public works spending during an election period.

These are:

- Binondo-Intramuros Bridge

- Flood Risk Management project for Cagayan River, Tagoloan River, and Imus River

- Samar Pacific Coastal Road Project

- LRT-2 East Extension

- Motor Vehicle Recognition and Enhancement System

- Unified Grand Central Station or North Triangle Common Station

- Malitubog-Maridagao Irrigation Project Stage 2

Apart from the Samal Island-Davao City bridge project, some of the 101 big-ticket items left unfinished are the Bataan-Cavite Interlink bridge, Panguil Bay bridge, the North South Commuter Railway system, and Metro Manila subway projects.

Economic managers are confident Duterte's successor will carry on what he started since the projects have been screened and vetted by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board, where the President sits as chairman.

"The basic principle is that benefits outweigh the cost. So we think we could make a case for the next administration to see the benefit of continuing its implementation," Roderick Planta, OIC-NEDA Undersecretary for Investment Programming, said in the same briefing.

"Of course, with the appeal to continue the infrastructure development build-up more resources because marami pa din po tayong (we still have a lot of) gaps," he added.