The Philippines’ ambitious “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program is again undergoing a review to give priority to projects that would have the biggest impact on reviving an economy reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vivencio Dizon, presidential adviser for flagship programs and projects, told the Inquirer on Tuesday (May 5) that the Duterte administration was “reviewing everything now,” referring to at least 100 projects in the Build, Build, Build (BBB) pipeline.

Dizon said that so far, the government has yet to decide which projects would be retained, removed or tweaked.

Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua told ANC also on Tuesday that the plan to spend P1 trillion on BBB this year was being reviewed by the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC).

Chua said there was a need to “reprioritize our infrastructure program.”

“We have to give more space to health infrastructure. We have to give more space to digital infrastructure, and those are important in the ‘new normal,’” Chua said.

“But we will continue to pursue a lot of the infrastructure program because that is an important element in our recovery,” he said.

“We will have to do this while meeting the minimum health standard,” Chua added.

“We will have to select the projects that have the most economic impact in terms of getting us back to pre-crisis growth rates and employment levels,” Chua added.

While reviewing the pipeline, Chua expressed confidence that “we stand a good chance of completing a lot of the flagship [infrastructure projects], so we will pursue them in the next two-and-a-half years.”

Midway into the Duterte administration last year, the government tweaked the BBB program to give bigger participation to tycoons with deep pockets via the public-private partnership (PPP) mode, which earlier took a back seat to projects to be funded by official development assistance (ODA) from China and Japan.

Dizon had said that the Philippines must stick with BBB just as stimulus packages of the United States, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam against COVID-19 also included massive infrastructure spending.

But Dizon earlier admitted to the Inquirer that it may be more challenging to secure financing from multilateral lenders, bilateral development partners, and even the private sector to roll out big-ticket infrastructure as the global economy was sickened by coronavirus.

Of the 100 big-ticket projects under “Build, Build, Build,” 22 projects worth P167.9 billion will be financed by the national budget; 49 projects worth P2.3 trillion by ODA; and 29 worth P1.8 trillion by PPP.

Chua told ANC that BBB, passing the pending tax reform packages, and enjoining more private sector participation in the COVID-19 recovery plan would allow the Philippine economy to have a “good chance” for a “V-shaped” or quick recuperation post-pandemic.

Chua said that the private sector will have “a very big role, because this is a once-in-a-century problem—we didn’t have this since 1918, and the magnitude is much bigger.”

“This requires an all-nation approach to addressing this problem,” he said.

“People who think the government has a solution and a perfect solution for the problem, I think, are not attuned to the reality,” Chua said.

“This is where private sector will have to contribute in terms of supplying the right equipment to help the health sector, supplying and facilitating testing,” he added.

“Of course, also making sure their employees are safe when we do resume work. So that’s a lot of work that needs to be done jointly with the private sector,” Chua said.

Edited by TSB


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