CNN Philippines holds business forum on 'Build, Build, Build' program

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CNN Philippines will hold its first business forum on the government's massive infrastructure plan this Wednesday.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 30) — CNN Philippines held Wednesday its first business forum on the government's massive infrastructure plan, at the Maybank Performing Arts Theater in Taguig.

Focusing on the administration's "Build, Build, Build" program, the forum featured five panelists that include Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, and Bases Conversion and Development Authority President Vivencio Dizon.

“Build, Build, Build” has greatly increased government spending in April, Department of Budget and Management (DBM) data showed.

Government spending in April 2018 was at P261.2 billion, up 43 percent from last year. This was driven by infrastructure spending, which counted for almost a quarter of the expenses for that month at P65.6 billion.

Overall, the government has spent P1.03 trillion for the first four months of this year, and it’s poised to spend more.

“We are keeping our foot on the gas pedal with regards to government spending,” said Diokno said in a statement Wednesday. “Strong government spending will only improve our growth and development prospects, which means better living standards and more economic opportunities for our people.”

Infrastructure is one of the top priorities of President Rodrigo Duterte's administration, in an effort to bring more inclusive growth outside of the Metro Manila region.

“This administration’s Build, Build, Build program is a way of spatially targeting the poor in different parts of the country, given that the thrust of the program is building infrastructure in the regions,” Pernia said in a statement Wednesday.

According to the latest World Bank report, the country's poverty rate was at 21.6 percent in 2015.

The government targets a gross domestic product of 7 to 8 percent and a significant reduction in poverty by the end of Duterte's term in 2022.

The "Build, Build, Build" program is composed of 75 flagship infrastructure projects, including six airports, nine railways, three bus transits, 32 roads and bridges, and four seaports.

The government estimates these projects will cost approximately P8.44 trillion ($167.3 billion), to be funded by a mix of local and foreign sources.

These projects are expected to create 1.7 million jobs.

The government launched an online “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs,” portal to connect workers to job opportunities to meet the demand created in the infrastructure sector.

"The “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” Portal will serve as a job matching platform between potential employers and employees as the government moves to complement its “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure initiatives with more job opportunities for Filipinos," Villar said in a statement.

CNN Philippines Chief Correspondent Pia Hontiveros and CNN International Correspondent Andrew Stevens interviewed these officials about the administration's ambitious infrastructure plan, which aims to bring about a "Golden Age of Infrastructure."

The country's economic and infrastructure managers will also be facing a panel of business leaders from various business organizations as well as representatives from different embassies in the Philippines.

"Building for the Future" will air on CNN Philippines on Friday, June 1, at 7:00 p.m.