DPWH halfway done with Build, Build, Build

Neil Jayson Servallos - The Philippine Star
DPWH halfway done  with Build, Build, Build
DPWH Secretary Mark Villar (second from left) leads conducts an inspection to the skyway stage 3 project.
Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — The Duterte administration’s ambitious infrastructure program may see some big-ticket projects incomplete before the President’s term ends in 2022, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said yesterday.

With more than 9,000 kilometers of road; 2,000 bridges and 4,000 flood control projects and thousands of other projects, Public Works Secretary Mark Villar said the government was halfway done with the Build, Build, Build program.

“I would say we’re halfway toward our goal,” Villar said during the weekly Kapihan sa Manila Bay news forum yesterday.

He added that the DPWH, which handles around 20,000 projects yearly, has already set a timetable to have the lion’s share of the 75 flagship projects finished within Duterte’s term.

For this to be possible, the DPWH chief said his department needs a P500-billion budget in 2020. The agency’s budget for this year was P454 billion, following veto cuts.

Villar said the Skyway project, a portion of which was opened last Monday, would be about 95 percent complete by the end of the year.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) earlier said implementing agencies have identified 47 out of the 75 flagship programs that will be finished beyond 2022.

“Most projects would be fully completed, but of course, there might be some that aren’t completely finished (by the time Duterte steps down) but we’ll do our best to finish as much as we can before (that),” Villar explained.

Infrastructure spending has reached five percent of gross domestic product (GDP) this year, according to DPWH. The agency was eyeing to maximize spending to seven percent of GDP before Duterte’s term ends.

“If you compute it, every year we are looking at P8 trillion in spending before the end of the President’s term,” Villar added.

‘Generous’ China

Most flagship projects are funded by the government, with some financed by countries such as China, Japan, the US and South Korea through official development assistance (ODA).

The Philippines has secured loans from China for two projects under the Build, Build, Build program so far – the P4-billion Chico River Pump Irrigation project in Kalinga and Cagayan provinces and the P18-billion New Centennial Water Source Kaliwa dam project in Quezon province.

But Villar admitted that these projects were yet to receive the funding under the China Loan Package agreement signed with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit last year to Manila. Only the Pasig River bridges, Binondo-Intramuros Bridge and Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge have secured Chinese grants and broke ground last year.

While the government was still working on the Chinese loans, Villar assured the public that there was no need to panic – referring to fears that the Philippines may fall into a debt trap at the hands of the Chinese who have been “very generous.”




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