Gov't to change priority infrastructure list again to include more health, flood control projects

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 17) — Change is again coming for the government's list of flagship infrastructure projects –– the fourth version in four years.

Officials of the National Economic and Development Authority announced Thursday that a fresh review of the priority projects is underway just months after the priority list was overhauled and approved in August.

"We are now recalibrating the 104 IFPs (infrastructure flagship projects). Hopefully by the end of this year, we will have a finalized list," NEDA officer-in-charge Undersecretary Jonathan Uy said in the agency's year-end briefing.

"We are also considering digital technology as well as health infrastructure. Also, with the effects of the typhoons, we are expanding the flood control and water supply projects," he added. "The recalibration also emphasizes that these projects must be doable at least, started or even completed by end of June 2022. Those are the most important considerations."

The NEDA Board, which is chaired by President Rodrigo Duterte, approved on August 19 a longer list of 104 projects worth ₱4.13 trillion, against the 2019 list of 100 projects costing ₱4.23 trillion.

The latest roster –– which is heavy on projects in Luzon and mostly reliant on official development assistance and private sector funding –– is the third version of the government's priority big-ticket items, coming from the original list of 75 projects first revealed in 2016.

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Transportation projects, particularly railways and the new ₱736-billion Bulacan international airport, are the biggest items on the pipeline.

Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said 26 of the 104 projects on the list are under early stages of development and will be reviewed if these are still viable.

"The two major criteria for that is the readiness of the project and its substantial implementation within the (President's) term," Chua said.

"Those 26 projects are being reviewed. If they will be able to go through the approval and final preparation process in the next few weeks then they will remain. However, if they will not be achieving those objectives, then they may be parked," he added.

State spending on public infrastructure has slowed down this year due to the pandemic. Chua said contractors lost manpower as workers returned to their provinces at the height of the global health crisis, while foreign consultants could not initially fly to the country due to strict lockdowns.

Typhoons and the requirement to comply with health measures also slowed down projects.

Chua said a boost in spending is expected next year with ₱1.1 trillion or 5.4% of the budget allotted for infrastructure, while unfinished projects this year may be continued in 2021 once the bill extending the life of the current national budget is signed into law.

The Duterte administration earlier promised to make its six-year reign as the "Golden Age" of infrastructure in the country. However, some projects remain delayed less than two years away from the end of Duterte's term.