Get PPP going this year
- Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - January 4, 2013 - 12:00am

Cosette Canilao, executive director of the PPP Center, is one patient, hardworking and competent bureaucrat. I admire her dedication to the mission given to her. But PPP will move only if the Cabinet Secretaries on top of the proposed projects move. That has been the stumbling block so far.

When Cosette made a presentation of what her unit is working on before a group of economists, she didn’t betray any feeling of frustration which should be normal for someone in her position. There is no doubt the background work is going on smoothly. Cosette’s group even wrote manuals on how to do PPP projects.

At least Cosette now has an ally in NEDA director general Arsenio Balisacan. When he attended his last meeting with the Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) before he assumed his NEDA post, Arsi promised to push harder to get those projects going.

But even Arsi had to admit late last year that the roll out of the PPP projects will take more time than they thought. Nevertheless, Arsi said the government is “not giving up on PPPs. We will push harder [even if] we had some hiccups in implementation and unexpected problems. We’ve learned a lot from the last 12 months [so we will be] able to move faster next year,” he reassured.

Of course we are skeptical of government’s so called flagship economic thrust called the Public Private Partnership for needed infrastructure. By the time Cosette made her presentation before the FEF, government had missed all of its set targets for getting PPP projects going. P-Noy’s economic managers did him a disservice by making him prematurely launch PPP without much due diligence.

Of the original projects, only one was actually awarded… the short Daang Hari expressway connection to the SLEX. But even that project is now delayed and the winning bidder, Ayala, could very well give it up. DPWH didn’t study the project well enough, changed some bidding parameters after the fact and didn’t make proper coordination with the SLEX concessionaire.

The only significant PPP award that is making progress is the school building project and it isn’t even one of the originals. DepEd successfully awarded the first phase of the project. The company of former MMDA chief Bayani Fernando won the public bidding and is now implementing it.

Many of the pending DOTC projects are in the original list, but are not in any danger of being implemented soon. Why am I not surprised? When I asked Cosette if she could furnish me with an implementation schedule of the PPP projects, she said she will seek clearance from the departments involved. I never got that schedule.

Now they are talking of expanding the scope of potential PPP projects to include the relocation of informal settlers from waterways considered danger zones. Cosette said she had met with officials of the National Housing Authority and the Department of Public Works and Highways to discuss how this could be done.

Another possibility for the PPP approach that Cosette is pushing has to do with tourism infrastructure. She is thinking about a public-private partnership in the redevelopment and restoration of heritage structures like the Old Manila Post Office and the Manila Metropolitan Theater.

Tourism Secretary Mon Jimenez broached that possibility to me too over a year ago. Sec MonJ said some Singaporean investors want to convert the old Post Office building into a hotel.

I guess that’s where Cosette got the idea when she told newsmen that “It’s been done in other countries like Singapore.” The luxury Fullerton Hotel was once the General Post Office of Singapore.

Tourism Sec MonJ is also thinking of PPP as a way of restoring Intramuros to its old colonial glory and more. It is an ideal project for many of our top property developers who have made theme parks out their developments.

If Megaworld can replicate Venice on McKinley Hill with a fake canal, why not Intramuros in Intramuros with its authentic walls?

Maybe the Intramuros Administration, which is the agency responsible for the project, is not moving fast enough. Of course the problem there is formidable. Still, they should show some movement. The last I heard, Gawad Kalinga is now helping deal with the informal settlers.

The only agency that seems serious about PPP is DepEd. Last week, it published an invitation to prequalify bidders for the second phase of the school building project. That’s reason enough for P-Noy to be confident that he will be able to meet the target number of new classrooms to wipe out the shortage before his term expires.

A sense of urgency could do wonders, I think. In the meantime, good luck to Cosette. Her persistence ought to be given due recognition. Maybe just because she tirelessly pursues these possibilities, she could get lucky and this administration may actually surprise us all with accomplishments on the ground.

Optimism

Some administration allies in Congress were reported to have urged Pinoys to be more positive about our country’s state of affairs. Actually, SWS recently showed survey figures that Pinoys are optimistic enough… maybe even too hopeful about their future than reality would justify.

Ninety-two percent of adult Filipinos are entering the new year with hope rather than with fear, according to the SWS Fourth Quarter 2012 Social Weather Survey conducted from Dec. 8 to 11, 2012.

The 92 percent hopeful of the coming 2013 is just three points below the record-high 95 percent which was first achieved in 2002. Hopefulness of the new year is widespread across all areas, SWS found out, but is noticeably lower in Mindanao than in Metro Manila, balance Luzon and Visayas.

Four out of five (85 percent) in Mindanao are hopeful of the coming 2013, slightly lower than 96 percent in balance Luzon, 93 percent in Metro Manila, and 93 percent in Visayas. But it also turns out that new year hope is highest among classes ABC. Compared to 2011, new year hope increased among classes ABC but declined among classes D and E.

All (100 percent) of those who belong to middle-to-upper classes ABC are hopeful of 2013, higher than the 93 percent among masa class D and 89 percent among very poor class E. The decline aside, even the masa registered very high levels of hopefulness.

This means despite the seeming cynicism of opinion leaders and media, the general public is unaffected enough to keep them highly optimistic. Knowing this sentiment, the administration cannot afford to disappoint. It must deliver on expectations this year, or at least make it visibly clear that they are starting to do so. Otherwise, there could be a backlash with dire political implications for 2016.

Tourism

Speaking of tourism, it looks like we are off to a good start for 2013. The prestigious Conde Nast listed us among the top in their list of hot destinations to watch in 2013. Credit P-Noy and Sec MonJ for creating the right environment to grow our tourism industry.

According to cntraveller.com, the Philippines is “still not the most obvious beach-holiday destination, but it soon will be.” It went on to report that we are “becoming particularly popular among serious divers, who come for the incredible underwater life, unspoilt coral gardens with rainbow-bright fish, green sea turtles and dugongs.”

Conde Nast cited Palawan: “the archipelago of Palawan ticks all the boxes: palm-fringed white-powder beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, natural lagoons for wild swimming on Miniloc Island – all of it protected by UNESCO. Its Bacuit Bay is something like Halong Bay in Vietnam, only without all the tourists – for the time being, at least.”

For surfers, it pointed out the “super-stylish new opening is Dedon Island, on Siargao; it’s owned and designed by contemporary furniture brand Dedon.” It also cited new hotels rising in Metro Manila… “the Philippines capital of Manila is also having a moment. Among its new openings – another one in December 2012 – is the Fairmont Makati City.”

I like how Conde Nast ends its review: “Sorry, Maldives... We love you, but we’ve got a new flame.”

Way to go! It is really starting to be more fun in the Philippines!

Fiscal cliff

A last minute deal averted the US falling into a fiscal cliff for now. But not too many Americans I met during my recent visit know what it is or why they should worry.

Here is how Jay Leno tried to explain the fiscal cliff: “Are you sick and tired of hearing the term ‘fiscal cliff’? People don’t understand it. It doesn’t tell you how serious the situation is. They need more colorful metaphors.

Here’s how to explain it: “It’s 4 a.m. for our economy and Lindsay Lohan is behind the wheel. That says danger. People understand that.”

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

 

CONDE NAST COSETTE METRO MANILA NEW PPP PROJECTS
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