GMA News, 25 December 2012

After hitting the targeted roll-out of eight big-ticket projects for this year, the government is now looking to utilize its flagship public-private partnership (PPP) program for so-called “social infrastructure” projects, such as building housing communities for 60,000 informal sector families in Metro Manila and the “restoration and redevelopment” of heritage structures in Old Manila.

The PPP Center has been looking at proposals for these specific projects, said the center’s executive director Cosette Canilao.

“While the momentum is there, we want to go to the next level. It’s time to move on to more ambitious projects that the government has not done before,” she said.

The relocation of the informal sector in the National Capital Region forms part of the Department of Public Works and Highways’ initiative to declog waterways in the metro, after the southwest monsoon in August caused massive flooding in the region.

Canilao noted that the proposal was jointly put forward by the National Housing Authority and the DPWH.

“The study now focuses on how will it be viable for investors as well as how to build communities and not just housing,” the official said.

“The challenge, really, is building communities – where social services and employment  are available for them [informal settlers],” she added.

The PPP Center, the agency reviewing project proposals for inclusion in the flagship program, is also mulling ways to redevelop the Old Manila area.

“It’s important to maintain the integrity of these structures para ‘di masayang. We are looking at emulating the way Singapore has restored old structures,” Canilao said, referring to the city-state’s historic General Post Office, which was redeveloped into the luxury Fullerton Hotel in 1997.

Canilao said the first two in the pipeline could be the Old Manila Post Office and the Manila Metropolitan Theater, both of which are now in a dilapidated state.

She noted that if everything “goes well,” the housing and restoration projects could be rolled out “by the end of 2013 or in early 2014.”

So far, social infrastructure projects under the PPP program are in the health and education sectors.

Two of these are in already in the bidding stage: the P13.14-billion PPP for School Infrastructure Project Phase 2 that involves the construction of 10,679 classrooms in over 5,000 state-run schools nationwide; and the P5.6-billion project to build, operate and maintain a new 700-bed capacity tertiary orthopedic hospital.

Another social infrastructure project – the P16.5-billion School Infrastructure Project Phase 1 involving the design, finance and construct of about 9,300 classrooms in Luzon, which was awarded last September – was the second PPP to complete the bidding stage. — BM, GMA News