An opposition leader in the House of Representatives on Monday said the P8.4 trillion that President Rodrigo Duterte plans to invest in new public infrastructure should be distributed evenly countrywide to foster balanced economic growth across all regions.
House deputy minority leader and Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said that “development planners should see to it that the money is spent prudently, and spread out as fairly as possible so that all Filipinos will enjoy the economic benefits. No region should be left behind.”
“We really have to renew our aging infrastructure, so we are all behind the President’s highly aggressively strategy,” Atienza, former Manila mayor, said.
He said the huge spending should create new economic opportunities for less developed areas and help stem resettlements in highly urbanized and congested districts.
“People will go to where the money is, and to where the jobs are, so every region should get its fair share,” Atienza said.
He said the huge investment in new roads, bridges, railways and airport improvements is expected to spur a multitude of recurring construction-related jobs that would immediately benefit low-income households.
“Construction workers come mostly from underprivileged families. They also tend to spend their money in a manner likely to benefit other disadvantaged households,” Atienza said.
“Chances are, they will buy their food and other basic necessities from the nearest street vendor, carinderia or sari-sari store, and not from Jollibee or 7-Eleven,” he said.
Atienza said the administration’s push for a “Golden Age of Infrastructure” calls for big projects throughout Duterte’s six-year term, including the country’s first underground electric railroad.
The proposed P227-billion Mega Manila Subway promises to take commuters from Quezon City to Taguig City in just half an hour, he added.
Atienza said he also supports the administration's subway project.
“Since we can no longer widen most roads in Metro Manila, we have to either build tunnels, or put up more elevated trains,” he said.
Duterte and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are set to ink in November a deal that would pave the way for the construction of the subway system, which will be funded in part by official development assistance from Tokyo.
The administration plans to boost annual investments in infrastructure until it reaches an amount equal to 7.4 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product by the end of Duterte’s term in 2022.
At present, annual government spending for infrastructure amounts to just 5.4 percent of the total value of all goods and services produced by the country in a year.