Philippine economy
The Philippine government has revamped the list of infrastructure projects under Duterte’s “Build, Build, Build” program after some items were found to be “challenging and costly.”
The STAR/Michael Varcas
Former MMDA chair suggests comprehensive studies before seeking funding for BBB projects
Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - November 19, 2019 - 3:19pm

MANILA, Philippines — While the government's "Build, Build, Build" program is not a failure, progress has been slow, Rep. Bayani Fernando (Marikina 1st District) said.

Fernando, founder of contractor BF Construction, said on ANC's "Headstart" on Monday said that the delays were attributable to decision-making.

"Departments cannot just decide on these things [because] at the end of your term you'll find yourself in court for the next 15 years," he said. 

The program, which initially included 75 high-impact infrastructure projects, was touted to usher in a “golden age of infrastructure” for the country. 

Fernando said the program is “not totally [a failure]” but added that “I would say we really are kind of slow.” His main recommendation for the program, he said, is to study the initatives more comprehensively before looking into securing funds for projects.

“Before looking for the money to finance the project, let’s do the work of doing the detailed engineering. To the last bolt, everything [should be] designed,” he said. “Then after that, we can now get an accurate estimate of cost, then let’s start looking for money.” 

'Build, Build, Build' doubts

Sen. Franklin Drilon last week called the "Build, Build, Build" program a “dismal failure” because only nine out of the 75 flagship infrastructure projects under it have began construction, a criticism that presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said was “baseless.”

Presidential flagship project adviser Vince Dizon said at an economic briefing on November 13 that 35 of 100 projects are ongoing construction. Dizon said that the expenditures on infrastructure projects boosted GDP growth. 

Even the Department of Transportation hit Drilon’s statement, penning an open letter on their official Facebook page listing the achievements of the program so far. 

“[I]t is grossly unfair to assess the success of the program by merely looking at the implementation of the flagship projects – many of which require immense pre-construction work such as right-of-way acquisition and community resettlement,” the department wrote in a press statement. 

President Rodrigo Duterte has also acknowledged that the pacing of construction left much to be desired. Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go on Monday said that the chief executive issued a directive for the agencies involved to hasten completion of their infrastructure projects.

“The president wants that all documents for the ‘Build Build Build’ approved or not approved leave the desk of these agencies,” Go, a former presidential aide and the president's constant companion and de fact spokesperson, said.

“We talked and he wants not only ‘Build, Build, Build’ but also ‘Use, Use, Use’ of these infrastructure project.”

But for Fernando, securing a more intensive planning process for "Build, Build, Build"’s projects was of utmost importance if the program wanted to shake of its many delays. 

“And if we have that, we are sure of how much we need,” Fernando continued. “Then the decision-makers can now make their decisions [faster] because they have proof and they’ve done the preliminaries. There’s a basis for their decisions.” 

MMDA powers 

Earlier in that same interview, Fernando also proposed that the Metro Manila Council (MMC), which is the policy making body of the MMDA, be given power to pass and enforce ordinances throughout the metro.

The MMC is composed of mayors from Metro Manila’s LGUs, while certain department secretaries are invited to MMC meetings as non-voting members. 

“[I]t would solve the problem of yung kanya-kanya. Each [LGU] has his own regulation, no uniformity. So the motoring public would be at a loss [and] would not know the rules to follow," he said of the proposed measure. 

Fernando said that the overall expansion of powers of the MMDA, such as granting the power of operating the Metro’s mass transit systems, should be considered amid the mass transportation crisis in the metro.

“It’s about time that we start this thing, because it’s [been] envisioned. The national agencies may be too busy with other areas [like] Davao and Cebu, all over. They might as well relegate these jobs to an agency like the MMDA who can be focused on this.

BUILD BUILD BUILD PROGRAM DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE MMDA
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