An advocacy group urges Malacañang to issue an executive order (EO) on critical infrastructure “to address the bureaucratic blockades that have been suppressing the Philippines’ potentials to be a robustly prosperous nation.”
Orlando Oxales, lead convenor of CitizenWatch that champions the interests of consumers and ordinary citizens, said the proposed EO should cover digital, transportation (land, air, and maritime), and power infrastructure.
“This EO should consolidate existing, albeit siloed, measures and be guided by recommendations from the private sector,” Oxales said.
He added that the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for Filipinos to recover economically and pursue their dreams of prosperity.
“Our people are endowed with rich natural and human resources with the skills and driving spirit to excel,” Oxales said.
“The government is duty-bound to respond to their need for a better quality of life, and it could do this through responsive policies,” he added.
The objective, he said, is to accelerate the speed of economic growth using an inclusive, sustainable, and people-centered approach.
“To be responsive entails an accurate appreciation of the problems and the potential of drivers of the economy, which is the private sector,” Oxales stressed.
In the 2022 annual global competitiveness report of the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) Yearbook, the Philippines ranked 48th out of 63 economies.
“While this is a four-step improvement from the previous year, the fact remains that in Asia-Pacific alone, we have remained second-to-last in the past five years,” Oxales said.
The ranking reflects the sorry state of infrastructure in the country, he noted.
“The state of Philippine infrastructure has been one of the uncompetitive factors for attracting foreign investments we need to build a robust manufacturing industry. This, in turn, would create millions of quality jobs for our skilled and young workforce instead of losing to other countries with job opportunities that are often less optimal for their qualifications.”
Oxales said President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has been engaging the Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) wherein the country’s industry leaders in the infrastructure sector have vowed support for the execution of infrastructure programs of the administration.
The PSAC, along with the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), has earlier called for the issuance of an Executive Order to institutionalize improvements in the process of establishing telecommunication towers and other related infrastructure, thus speeding up the release of permits and licenses.
“These bureaucratic bottlenecks have bogged down the development of digital and other infrastructure projects for too long and has dragged down the growth of our industries,” Oxales said.
But aside from the faster processes for telco permits and licenses, the proposed critical infrastructure EO should also adopt provisions of Republic Act 11494 of the Bayanihan to Recover Act.
Specifically, Oxales said, this pertains to Section 4: “Undertaking measures in partnership with appropriate internet and communication service providers in the acceleration of the deployment of critical Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure” and authorizing measures for the; “Temporary suspension of requirements to secure permits and clearances for the construction of telecommunications and internet infrastructure”; “Streamlining of regulatory processes and procedures for the development and improvement of digital, internet and satellite technology infrastructure”; and directing all government agencies and LGUs to “act on all pending and new applications for permit, license, certificate, clearance, authorization and resolutions within a non-extendable period of seven (7) working days”.
The said law, Oxales said, directs “the DPWH and other government agencies to expedite the implementation of infrastructure programs and projects to generate local employment and stimulate the local economy”; that “infrastructure flagship projects identified by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) shall be fast-tracked to pump prime the economy and help promote national economic recovery; all permits and licenses including local government permits, licenses, clearances and registration requirement for infrastructure flagship projects shall be deemed waived for a period of one (1) year; permit requirements relating to environmental laws, health and occupational safety shall continue to be applicable and subject to a processing time of seven (7) working days; that all laws requiring the permits waived under this provision shall be deemed amended during this one-year period of fast-track development”.
“This EO on critical infrastructure would be critical to our recovery and sustainable development,” said Oxales. “We at CitizenWatch know the President is aware of this, so it is imperative that the Palace acts swiftly and decisively on the matter.”
“An infrastructure policy that would cut thru the suppressing bureaucratic red-tape would serve as a turbo-booster for infrastructure investments and result in an unprecedented acceleration of infrastructure programs we needed decades ago. This critical infrastructure EO could well be the developmental legacy of the Marcos administration,” he said.