The Duterte administration is known for its political will and no-nonsense approach in governance. The economic managers and infrastructure secretaries have carried over this brand of leadership in the government’s ambitious infrastructure program called Build Build Build. The much-anticipated program is firing on all cylinders as the Duterte administration addresses the decades of neglect in the country’s public infrastructure.
“As soon as we [Duterte administration] assumed office, we decided to prioritize the infrastructure gap that has hampered the competitiveness of the Philippine economy,” said Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno. “Both the statistics and eye test confirm this. For instance, the 2018 Global Competitiveness Index of the World Economic Forum (WEF) ranks our public infrastructure at 97th out of 137 countries. From 1 to 7, with 7 being the highest, it is given a 3.4,” Diokno elaborated. “In university standards, our dismal infrastructure performance translates to a singko (a grade of 5.0)—a failure, ” the Budget Chief added.
Looking around Metro Manila, one can do away with numbers to validate the insufficient and crumbling infrastructure. During rush hours, roads and major thoroughfares double as parking lots. Public transport systems, particularly the trains, are bursting at the seams as they try (and fail) to accommodate the sea of passengers.
Of course, the transport struggle equates to welfare and economic losses. For commuters, it means time that could have been spent for rest, leisure, and more importantly, family. For the economy, this translates to foregone productivity and loss of investments—things which could have generated more jobs and higher incomes for our countrymen.
Build Build Build: Full Steam Ahead
“We recognize the urgency of the situation and we are mobilizing all resources to reverse this pitiful state of affairs,” said Diokno. “We just have to be patient because closing the infrastructure gap will take years. After all, we’re trying to fix 3 decades of neglect in public infrastructure,” he added.
Relative to other administrations, the Duterte government is committing more resources to infrastructure. In his first two years in office (2017 and 2018), President Duterte already obligated 6.3% of GDP to infrastructure. This is two to three times as much as previous administrations—with a stagnant 1.7% under President Ramos, 1.8% under President Estrada, 1.6% under President Arroyo—before rising slightly to 3.0% under President Aquino III.
“We were able to hit the ground running in terms of Build Build Build thanks to policy tweaks and political will,” said Secretary Diokno. To appreciate the details, two comparisons will be made: C6 vs Daang Hari; and Panglao Airport vs Bicol International Airport.
10 km Laguna Lake Highway vs 4 km Daang Hari
The Daang Hari-SLEX Link Road Project (or the Muntinlupa-Cavite Expressway) was the first Public-Private Partnership (PPP) project to be launched by the previous administration. It was a 4-kilometer, 4-lane paved toll road connecting Bacoor, Cavite to the South Luzon Expressway.
Upon completion, total cost was PhP 2.7 billion, inclusive of private sector financing and government support. The winning bidder and project concessionaire was Ayala Corporation, with concession terms of 30 years.
The 4-km highway did not pan out as planned. The PPP program of the Aquino III administration took 4 years before it became operational. This works out to 1 kilometer per year, symbolizing the snail pace and lack of urgency in addressing the infrastructure gap.
While the project was originally approved by the NEDA Board on July 2011, corporate disputes and bureaucratic red tape delayed implementation. The concession agreement, signed on April 2012, outlined that project completion could be done in 18 months after signing of the agreement. But instead of October 2013, the project was pushed back to as late as July 2015.
Design variation issues and right-of-way (ROW) problems hounded the Daang Hari project.
The design variation also required additional layers of approval as it meant cost estimate revisions. It had to go through the Investment Coordination Committee (ICC)/NEDA Board once more because the change in design led to an increase in cost above 10% of the contract value.
Land acquisition was also a problem because ROW couldn’t be obtained in a faster pace, in the absence of the Right-of-Way Law (the said law or Republic Act No. 10752 was enacted March 7, 2016). Problems in market valuation for ROW acquisition caused delays, as some cases had to be referred to courts and took some time to be resolved.
In contrast, an example of efficient project implementation is the Laguna Lake Highway, formerly known as the C-6 Dike Road. It was opened last November 15, 2018 and was completed in record time, ahead of schedule. The four-lane highway spans 10 km and cuts travel time from Bicutan to Taytay from 1 hour to just 30 minutes. The Laguna Lake Highway serves as an alternative route to EDSA and C-5 and also features a 3 meter-wide bicycle lane.
New Bohol Panglao Airport vs Bicol (New Legazpi) International Airport
The New Bohol Panglao International Airport is further proof of this administration’s efficiency in forwarding its commitment to revamp the country’s infrastructure.
As early as 2001, proposals have been endorsed to construct the new Panglao Airport, which would replace the Tagbilaran Airport and accommodate Bohol’s increasing influx of passengers. However, no material progress occurred until March 2013 when the Japan International Cooperation Agency signed an agreement with the Philippines to build the airport at a cost of P7.73 Billion.
Former President Benigno Aquino Jr. led the groundbreaking of the project in March 2016. But progress has stalled due to delays in the bidding process. Upon assumption of the Duterte administration, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) listed the New Bohol Panglao International Airport as one of the big-ticket projects under its watch for the Build Build Build program. By changing the implementation model into a stand-alone concession, construction has been fast-tracked. And as of November 2018, the New Bohol Panglao International Airport is already fully operational.
Clear efficiency and progress in 18 months —this is what Duterte administration’s Build Build Build is all about.
Now, Bohol’s residents, visitors, and tourists can enjoy the country’s first eco-airport. Dubbed as the Green Gateway to the World, the New Bohol Panglao International Airport is equipped with thehighest standards of green and sustainable structure. It can accommodate 2 million passengers annually, more than double the capacity of the Tagbilaran Airport.
In sharp contrast, the construction of the Bicol International Airport has been a symbol of monumental delay and inefficiency. As early as 2006, the Bicol International Airport was already in its planning stages, and pre-construction activities have commenced in late 2007. From 2012 to 2016 alone, more than P 3 Billion has been spent for for the project. Construction delays pushed the target completion date from 2014 to 2017, further highlighting the gravity of inefficiency and neglect on infrastructure development by previous administrations.
Under Duterte’s Build Build Build program, construction for the Bicol International Airport is now in full swing. After more than a decade of construction delays, the new Bicol International Airport is halfway through construction. Despite a few setbacks, including the attacks by an armed rebel group in the airport’s construction area in September 2017, the Department of Transportation commits to complete the P4.8 Billion project by 2020.
The Build Build Build program shows the Duterte administration’s commitment to real change. These projects highlight what strong, efficient leadership, and political will can do. And with the facts and numbers on the table, it is as clear as day that the Duterte administration delivered.
DAANG HARI PICTURES AND ALIGNMENT
BICOL INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT