WITH credit raters and other economists tagging policy uncertainty with the change in political leadership next year as increasingly a key risk facing investors, the House of Representatives is moving to make the current government’s public-private partnership (PPP) infrastructure centerpiece a permanent fixture in the country’s development efforts.

The House Appropriations committee yesterday approved a bill institutionalizing and strengthening the public-private partnership (PPP) scheme in hopes of boosting investor confidence and attracting more firms to infrastructure projects.

Committee Chairman Rep. Isidro T. Ungab of Davao City’s third district said via text that the still-unnumbered measure, which seeks to amend the decades-old build-operate-transfer law, will be reported to the plenary “hopefully this week.”

The bill institutionalizes the PPP Center, which now oversees this government program, along with the procedure for awarding PPP contracts that had been previously approved by the House Public Works as well as Ways and Means committees.

The PPP Center was formed by President Benigno S. C. Aquino III’s Executive Order No. 8 in 2010 and beefed up by EO 136 in 2013.

Being executive directives, they can be repealed overnight by his successor who takes office on June 30, 2016.

The current bill now awaiting House plenary action retains the PPP Center’s existing organization structure and staff, as well as the existing policy-making Cabinet-level PPP Governing Board.

The measure also states that PPP projects worth more than P1 billion are entitled to incentives provided by the Omnibus Incentives Code, upon prior endorsement of the PPP Center and registration by the project proponent with the Board of Investments.

It also exempts the transfer of ownership of PPP infrastructure to the implementing state agency at the end of the concession from capital gains, documentary stamp tax and other taxes and fees.

A Joint Congressional Oversight Committee — to be jointly led by chairmen of the House and Senate Public Works committees — will be formed to oversee the implementation of this new law.

Sought for comment, John D. Forbes, senior adviser of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, cited the need “to strengthen and speed up the PPP program so more infrastructure gets built.”

“The Congress should prioritize plenary votes as soon as possible and the president should certify the bill measure as urgent,” Mr. Forbes said in a text message on Monday.

Counterpart versions of this bill remain pending at the committee level in Senate, whose leaders were not answering calls for comment.

House Majority Leader Neptali M. Gonzales II said the bill can be approved by the chamber in plenary session tomorrow — Congress’ last session day before a month-long Christmas-cum-New Year break — if Malacañang were to certify the bill as urgent, but Palace spokesmen could not be immediately reached for comment.

14 December 2015
By Kathryn Mae P. Tubadeza