After almost 100 days in office, experts from the academe, private sector, and advocacy groups are calling on the Marcos government to learn from the lessons of the Duterte administration’s Build, Build, Build program, and ensure a more consumer-friendly and transparent infrastructure program.
The experts made the call on Wednesday in a virtual roundtable discussion organized by the Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute (ADRi) in partnership with consumer advocacy group CitizenWatch Philippines.
“Infrastructure development is important for long-term growth. It provides jobs for Filipinos, ensures income security, allows for increased production and distribution, and stimulates spending that keeps the economy running strong for the long term. Indeed, infrastructure development is instrumental in achieving long-term growth – one that future generations may enjoy,” Prof. Victor Andres Manhit, Stratbase ADR Institute president, said.
Manhit said there is a need to drive-up investments for the country to move forward.
Dr. Epictetus Patalinghug , University of the Philippines- Virata School of Business professor emeritus and Stratbase ADRi trustee and program convenor, Dr. Epictetus Patalinghug enumerated the challenges the previous administration faced that led to the inefficient implementation of the Duterte administration’s Build, Build, Build (BBB) program.
The Duterte Administration’s medium-term goal was to increase infrastructure spending from 5.4 percent of GDP in 2017 to 7.3 percent in 2022.
“There was weak strategic guidance… There was poor project appraisal. I don’t think NEDA, DOTR, and DPWH have an internal capacity to do rapid appraisal. You always need World Bank money, ADB money to hire consultants. Then you have poor project selection and budgeting. As usual, completion delays and cost overruns. And very few interim and
ex-post project evaluation done in our projects,” Patalinghug said.
Patalinghug also recommended prioritizing consumer-friendly projects and streamlining the approval process of major infrastructure projects.
Infrawatch convenor Atty. Terry Ridon meanwhile called on President Marcos to provide policy clarity on the issues of traffic, electricity, and digital infrastructure that have been affecting the general public.
“While infrastructure is important, it should not be infrastructure at all cost, or at any cost. We must hold our leaders accountable because we have seen so many times how a particular need is abused so many people can get away with a lot of things. If there is water shortage, does that mean that just to address the water shortage, we will allow the government to do whatever it wants even with certain unsavory parts of the deal? I don’t think we should allow that,” he explained.
“It is very clear that the issues are the same and recurring in these projects. Most glaring is the trademark lack of transparency that strongly suggests irregularities. It has been argued that there is no need for confidentiality if everything is above board,” Santiago argued.
Prof. Montemar said there should be more citizen involvement in the planning and development of the government’s infrastructure program.
“There is geo-location bias in the BBB from the on-set. Completed projects are located in the National Capital Region. Another adage comes into mind here: Those who have less in life should have more in law. In the case of the BBB, however, considering the poverty map in the country, those who have less in life, have also less in BBB budget and project allocation. Isn’t that ironic?” he added.