Updated 11:13 AM PHT Sat, December 31, 2016
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Progress in the government's infrastructure plans - especially in the public-private partnership (PPP) program - topped the wish list of business leaders for 2017.
"I really hope for 2017, the government can fast-track its plans," BDO Capital President Ed Francisco said in a recent interview. "On paper, the numbers are good, the budget is there, but we'd like to see more of [the projects] rolled out."
The government's ambitious infrastructure plans have enjoyed wide support from investors and analysts - a much-needed break from the political controversies that dampened sentiment this year, Francisco said.
However, despite promises to ramp up construction and go on a 24/7 schedule, some projects remain at a standstill, noted Edgar Chua, newly-elected chair of the Makati Business Club (MBC).
"Infrastructure was our biggest weakness in 2016. The economy has grown strongly, but the lack of infrastructure is limiting its potential. If the government can finally address this next year, it will be our strongest point," he said.
The Duterte administration has vowed to bring forth the Philippines' "golden age of infrastructure," spending about P861 billion in 2017.
It has also approved 11 PPP deals, valued at P264 billion. They include the operation and maintenance of regional airports in Panglao, Laguindingan, Davao, Bacolod and Iloilo; the operation and maintenance of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line 2; the construction of LRT-6; and the construction of the Kaliwa Dam.
However, the PPP Center has said the new administration wants time to go through the terms of the project - a review that could take at least three months.
PPP Centre Executive Director Ferdinand Pecson also declined to give timelines on when the projects would be put on the auction block, or how many the government planned to bid out within the year.
Francisco said it was understandable the government needed time to transition between teams. Investors, however, need clarity since they're already preparing to participate in the projects.
"Who is the infra czar on top of this? If we could request for more clarity, what projects are really being bidd out? What are the timetables? Because they seem to have changed," he said.
Businesses wouldn't have any problems anyway if the government decides to scale back projects - as long as it informs them beforehand, Francisco said.
Meanwhile, MBC's Chua urged the Duterte administration to prioritize the decongestion of roads and the improvement of airports. He said these were the public works most vital to helping the economy grow.
Another crucial question, he added, was where the infrastructure would be built.
"It's good that the thrust of this presidency has been to focus on the regions, areas which have been neglected the most," he said.
For Luis Limlingan, managing director of Regina Capital Development Corp., companies in construction, transport and tourism would likely see a boost from the government's infrastructure plans.
He said their stocks would be the ones to watch in the market next year.