“There is a need to continuously explore both bilateral and multilateral infrastructure development partnerships and engage in public-private partnerships to maximize potential gains for the Filipino nation.”
ADRi president Dindo Manhit issued this statement on Monday at a forum entitled “The Geopolitics of Infrastructure: Opportunities and Challenges for the Philippines and the Indo-Pacific,” organized by the Stratbase ADR Institute think tank group.
Manhit said bilateral and multilateral cooperation with like-minded nations can usher in prosperity and development for all.
He added however, that inter-governmental partnerships must still be guided by the Philippines’ independent foreign policy and national interests.
“The current administration must ensure that it safeguards the Philippines from potential economic, financial, and security risks, I refer back to what I was sharing earlier on non-traditional security risks, that may arise from these partnerships by ensuring that appropriate studies are conducted on the feasibility and sustainability of projects that it engages in,” Manhit explained.
“Amidst the current geopolitical landscape and as we transition to a path of post-pandemic recovery, the current administration must increase its efforts in building and modernizing our infrastructure
networks while further improving the ease of doing business and creating a more enabling regulatory development for both local and foreign investors to take part in infrastructure development,” he added.
Former Public-Private Partnership Center executive director and Aboitiz InfraCapital president and chief executive officer Cosette Canilao said private sector participation in infrastructure projects provide a number of benefits such as increased financial capability, availability of technology, experts and managerial competence, and improved service efficiency, if public-private contracts are done right.
“[As] PPP investors, we look for projects that are bankable – where risks are fairly allocated between the government and us. And we prefer investing in a market where there is very steep commitment by the government to undertake an effective PPP program,” she explained.
“What we are hoping for next is the speedy evaluation and approval of numerous projects in the pipeline. It will also occur well for the private sector if there’s clear and consistent communication of directions and timelines when projects are expected to be evaluated or approved. Currently, the infrastructure efforts of the government are kind of reactive – reactive responses to existing problems to society.
A longer term, proactive and relevant infrastructure strategies are essential to maximize the capabilities of private institutions,” Canilao said.
Similarly, Transportation Undersecretary Mark Steven Pastor said the Department of Transportation hopes to encourage more foreign and private sector partnerships on road infrastructure projects.
“We hope to encourage collaborative partnerships with different government levels, both locally and internationally, and even partnerships with the private sector,” Pastor said.
However, he also admitted that bureaucratic challenges get in the way of intergovernmental partnerships.
“The risks that the government usually encounters include the following: delay in implementation due to various internal processes and requirements in the Philippines, the strong need to tailor fit the solutions to adapt to the Philippines’ market and environment, the lack of standards causing delay and longer timeline on development of projects, and finally the changes in policy direction for every new administration,” Pastor explained.
Recognizing these concerns, Pastor said the government intends to remove red tapes in government, particularly on the electric vehicle public transportation program.
“We intend to remove the red tapes in place in government so that those who want to participate in our electric vehicles public transportation can have the leeway to implement the same,” Pastor added.
Makati Business Club executive director Coco Alcuaz also shared some action points for the government to improve public-private partnerships.
“Depoliticize rate increases and stop blocking increases and arbitration awards and make a statement in that tone. Tell the world that we know this was happening in the past, it’s not going to happen again so they’re held accountable for that promise. I think a statement like will give some weight towards the turning the perception of the Philippines towards the better,” he said.
“Amend the Right of Way Act which is the RA 9184. The proposal is that even before the groundbreaking starts, the government can start buying right of way. That’s not necessarily allowed at this point but there can be some changes made so that by the time they make ground, they’re more sure that all the right of way will be lined up when they need it,” Alcuaz stressed.
For InfraWatch Philippines convenor and Stratbase non-resident fellow Terry Ridon, it is important that the government also engages the public on infrastructure projects.
“I think in every consultation, the public should be present and should be invited by the government and by the private sector for them to be able to articulate their ideas with regards to the proposals being made,” he said.
“Ultimately, it is not just the government or the private sector that is involved. A big chunk of the projects involves the public themselves. There is a real impact if we fail in creating or implementing good projects. I think the public should be involved in every step of the way,” Ridon added.