Filipino constructors help build the nation

Representing a sector that has been fueling the domestic economy, the Philippine Constructors Association has served as a cornerstone for economic growth and development in the past 75 years. 

Filipino constructors help build the nation
PCA President Wilfredo Decena
Formed to rebuild Manila which was virtually flattened during World War II, PCA and its members, chapters, and affiliates have been involved in every landmark development project in the country from the Manila International Airport to the newest superhighway—the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway or TPLEX.

With the country currently battling another kind of war, the construction sector which accounts for about 12 percent of the domestic economy is again expected to help the nation recover and emerge stronger towards a sustainable growth path. In nominal terms, it contributes about P600 billion to the gross domestic product each year.

More than the peso value, the construction industry is the country’s biggest job generator in the last 10 years, providing employment to more than 4.2 million Filipinos which account for 10 percent of the total workforce. With the injurious impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to businesses around the world forcing many overseas Filipinos to return home, the industry serves as a reliable partner of the government to find a stable future for these modern-day heroes here at home.

Building from the ruins

PCA’s mission began on Nov. 29, 1945 when nine industrialists led by A. G. Ner came together to form a united front that will lobby for local contractors to reconstruct the city of Manila which was the second most devastated city during World War II, next only to Warsaw, Poland.

The industry alliance was credited for rebuilding critical infrastructure and basic facilities such as roads, bridges, power and water networks, seaport, and airport, as well as government buildings that were all damaged by the war.

From then on, PCA as a consortium or through its individual members has actively participated in major developments across the country. It was behind the country’s first toll road – the North Diversion Road that ran from Balintawak, Quezon City to Malolos, Bulacan. The group also built other groundbreaking projects like the North and South Expressways, the MIA now known as NAIA which was Asia’s first international airport, Ambuklao Dam which was known during its early days as the longest dam in Asia, and the San Juanico Bridge which connects Leyte and Samar in the Visayas Region, making it the longest bridge over seawater in the country.

Laying the foundation

With the country’s steady growth in the 1960s, PCA leaders at that time—David Consunji, Anton Kho and Antonio Diokno—advocated for the professionalization of the industry with the passage of the Contractors’ License Law (Republic Act No. 4566) that created the Philippine Contractors License Board, now known as the Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board.

Later on, more laws were passed to further strengthen the construction industry such as the creation of the Philippine Overseas Construction Board for Filipino companies aiming to pursue projects abroad, Letter of Instruction 852 which limits the hiring and assignment of Filipino construction professional and workers only to PCAB-licensed contractors, creation of the Construction Manpower Development Foundation which is mandated with skills development for manpower resources in the industry, and finally, the formation of the central authority for the sector – the Construction Industry Authority of the Philippines.

PCA had also become truly representative of the industry with its 12 chapters nationwide located in Pangasinan, Pampanga, Bulacan, Bataan, Marikina Valley, Manila-Quezon City (Metropolitan), Rizal, Ormoc, Leyte, Negros, Cebu, and Davao.

Filipino constructors help build the nation
PCA is one of the pioneer members of the International Federation of Asian and Western Pacific Contractors’ Association which was founded in Manila in 1956. Photo shows the Philippine delegation during the IFAWPCA general meeting in Seoul, South Korea in 1964.
Going world-class

As PCA’s membership expanded, the organization reached out to neighboring countries to pursue cooperation among construction companies within the region and the world. It was one of the eight pioneer members of the International Federation of Asian and Western Pacific Contractors’ Association which was founded in Manila in 1956.

IFAWPCA groups builders in 18 countries—from Tokyo and Seoul in the North and Canberra and Wellington down under, to the bustling cities of ASEAN and the South-Asian capitals of New Delhi and Colombo. It was instrumental in the formation of the Confederation of International Contractors Associations, allowing it to relate some its concerns in the works of multilateral organizations like the International Labor Organization, Asian Development Bank, and World Bank, particularly in the areas of labor training and protection, sustainable development, project procurement, and financing.

PCA is also active in the ASEAN Constructors Federation representing eight nations in the region, a partner of the American Concrete Institute, and a part of the international multi-stakeholder Construction Sector Transparency Initiative espoused by World Bank and UK’s Department for International Development to promote transparency and accountability in the construction sector globally.

With the formation of POCB, several Filipino firms ventured into the overseas market with active presence in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Qatar and Timor Leste, among others. Filipinos designed and built industrial plants, roads, bridges, and monumental edifices in various countries, like the Leandro Locsin-designed Palace of the Sultan of Brunei with the Consunji-owned DMCI as civil works contractor and the Ayala-controlled Makati Development Corp. as project managers for the Brunei government.

Today, Filipino engineers, architects, designers, and construction workers are known to be among the best in the world and have imprinted their presence in the global construction scene.

Bringing global best practices to develop future industry leaders, PCA has been running since 2018 a Construction Program Management Masterclass, which is now being replicated by others in the region. This program is now being made into a book so that more can benefit from it. In the 1990s, PCA and the Asian Institute of Management also offered a construction project management class that produced some of today’s leaders.

To further build-up manpower capability in the construction sector, PCA worked hand in hand with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) for its two internationally-assured training programs—the Pambansang Treyners ng Konstruksyon and the Construction Supervisors Training Program—that targeted supervisors and was expanded nationwide to empower over 2,000 talents all over the country.

PCA also organizes the biggest construction trade show in the Asian region called Philconstruct which gathered a total of 45,000 visitors in its four venues – Manila, Central Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao – last year. It also served as the stage for Techno Forum which features globally renowned speakers who share knowledge about advanced building technologies.

Through pandemic

PCA had big plans when it welcomed 2020. It opened the year with the launch of the 10-year Philippine Construction Industry Roadmap, charting the course for a stronger and more resilient industry which had been growing fastest among all sectors at an average 10-percent annually in the past five years. With a newly-elected board, it set out to mark the organization’s 75th anniversary with a grand year-long celebration to toast the association’s various accomplishments and gear up for another breakthrough year ahead.

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the construction sector instead headed for an unprecedented contraction along with the rest of the domestic economy. Fitch Solutions Macro Research reversed its outlook for the industry into a full-year contraction of 9.8% this year, amid the impact of quarantine restrictions on the sector. 

PCA quickly re-engineered its plans to immediately respond to the needs of the industry and the nation. It partnered with the Ayala Group in the fit-out construction for 9,700 square meters of space at the World Trade Center into a 500-bed quarantine facility in a span of 7 days. With its member EEI Corp. and others, PCA collectively built sufficient quarantine facilities at COVID referral hospitals such as the UP-PGH, Quezon Institute, National Lung Center of the Philippines, Antipolo Medical Systems, Mandaluyong Medical Center, San Juan Medical Center, Sta. Rosa Medical Center, and Don Mariano Marcos Hospital.

PCA led the formulation of health and safety protocols for the construction sector to convince the government to allow resumption of work at the construction sites. Its online forum - PCA Talks - became the go-to venue for information about the industry amid the pandemic.

The association also accelerated its digitization program, maximizing online platforms to reach its members. This effort enabled faster mobilization, especially during the deadly Typhoons Rolly and Ulysses. PCA was able to provide relief goods such as rice and canned goods as well as equipment for clearing operations to the hardest hit provinces of the successive typhoons. Before that, the organization also conducted relief operations for the victims of the Taal Volcano eruption earlier in the year.

Building back better

“Now is the time to act as one, build as one. Because more than a partnership, what we need right now is a synchronized effort of both public and private sectors to win this war against COVID-19 and rise again as a stronger nation after this pandemic,” said PCA president Wilfredo Decena.

Forged together with the Department of Trade and Industry, the Philippine Construction Industry Roadmap serves as a blueprint to propel the industry towards higher levels of growth and catch up with its neighboring countries, in terms of capacity, construction values, and institutional integrity in the next ten years.

The industry roadmap feeds into the 30-year National Infrastructure Program (2023-2052) that covers major infrastructure projects of the national government from transport, energy, and water to ICT and social infrastructure, which is now being proposed by Rep. Romeo Momo under House Bill No. 8151.

“The adverse effects of the recent spate of destructive typhoons and floods, coupled with the COVID pandemic, further highlight the need for strategic infrastructure projects based on an overall long-term program in order to better use scarce funds to provide more effective and lasting engineering and related measures to address these calamities,” said Rep. Momo in his explanatory note.

As an immediate measure to support the development of the Philippine construction industry, several legislators are also proposing bills to amend the Contractors’ License Law (RA 4566) to position local builders at the forefront of the country’s recovery from the global pandemic.

“This expected slump in output places in jeopardy our local contractors and the millions of Filipino families who depend on them. It, therefore, behooves upon the government to implement sound policies and interventions to protect the local construction industry, while at the same time, provide reasonable in-roads for our local contractors and nationals to learn from and adapt international best practices, expertise, and technology,” said Senator Lito Lapid in his introduction of Senate Bill No. 1889.

In a recent speech, Decena said that the passage of these bills will help the country not just to rebuild from the devastation of the recent calamities and the global pandemic but build better towards the common goal and single vision of the truly progressive Filipino nation.

Topics: Philippine Constructors Association , Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway , COVID-19 pandemic
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