Philippines To Revise $180-Billion "Build, Build, Build" Plan To Make It More Realistic
Oct 25, 2019

The Philippine government, after a phase of promoting its ambitious “Build Build Build” programme to improve the country’s infrastructure by investing up to $180 billion in public and PPP projects, is slowing down its euphoria and said the plan needs a second look.

According to economic planning secretary Ernesto Pernia, the government is combing through the list of 75 flagship projects and said it will drop those which are not feasible and replace them with others “more economically doable.”

Most of all, smaller projects would take the place of large multi-billion projects. For example, Pernia said the government has axed three long-bridge projects costing 161 billion pesos ($3.14 billion) because they were “not economically viable” and tough to build because the technology was not yet available.

Those bridges were meant to connect Cebu and Bohol, Matnog, Sorsogon and Samar, as well as Leyte and Surigao. However, apart from being too advanced and costly to handle, practicality is also in question as “the amount of traffic does not justify their construction at this point of time,” Pernia noted.

The 75 projects on the original “Build Build Build” list will be replaced with smaller, but nonetheless “game-changing” projects like roads, highways, bridges, commuter service railways, flood control and management facilities and irrigation systems, which will benefit provinces not included in the original list, he said.

The programme, launched 2017, goes back to President Rodrigo Duterte’s election promises when he vowed to make his six years in office “the golden age of infrastructure” in the Philippines. The goal was to improve connectivity and mass transport to spur economic growth and productivity, create jobs and lift millions of Filipinos out of poverty.

The government has planned to finance the projects through its budget, official development assistance, private sector funds and loans. But the plan has been facing difficulties, most recently the delay in the approval of this year’s budget, forcing the Philippine government to trim the country’s GDP growth target for this year to six per cent to seven per cent from seven per cent to eight per cent.

However, analyst say even a revised plan was better than nothing since it will contribute to clearing out the decades-long backlog of infrastructure development in the Philippines, and this should be in any way positive for economic growth.

It is expected that about 25 per cent of the planned projects will by finished by 2022 when Duterte’s term ends.