MANILA, Philippines — The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has issued new guidelines that aim to simplify the processing of public-private partnership (PPP) proposals.

“The NEDA board has approved a new set of project processing guidelines that have to do with the PPPs. And the new guidelines will simplify the process and substantially reduce the number of days, for example, upon which a proposal sits in one office,” NEDA Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said.

He said through the new guidelines, the stages in the movement of the project would become more predictable and known to the public.

The guidelines cover the process for PPP proposals that are up for evaluation and approval of the NEDA board and the NEDA Investment Coordination Committee (ICC).

The NEDA board executive committee is composed of the President as chairperson, NEDA secretary as vice chair, and the executive secretary, finance secretary and budget secretary as members.

Meanwhile, the NEDA ICC has the finance secretary as chair and NEDA secretary as co-chair. ICC members are the executive secretary as well as the agriculture, trade and budget secretaries and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas governor.

Under the guidelines, the PPP Center will validate the completeness and compliance of the proposal submitted by an agency within five working days upon receipt.

If the proposal is incomplete, it will be returned to the agency.

Following the confirmation of completeness, the evaluation of the proposed project will be conducted in two phases within 20 working days, with Phase 1 covering 15 working days and involving a review by area of expertise by the Department of Finance and the NEDA.

Results of the evaluation will then be consolidated by the PPP Center under Phase 2 within five days from receipt.

The ICC Core Secretariat will then include the project in the agenda of the meeting of the ICC Technical Board within 10 working days from the receipt of the memorandum from the PPP Center.

For projects amounting up to P300 million where the ICC-Cabinet Committee (CC) is the approving body, the body will have 30 working days upon receipt of the ICC-TB’s endorsement of the solicited proposal.

When the project is approved by the ICC-CC, the implementing agency will need to publish the invitation to prequalify and bid within six months, unless otherwise provided or extended.

As for projects for NEDA Board approval, the board will have 30 working days upon receipt of the ICC-CC’s endorsement of the proposed project.

For unsolicited proposals, the NEDA Board has 120 calendar days to take action.

NEDA Undersecretary Joseph Capuno said the guidelines were issued to harmonize NEDA ICC guidelines with the revised implementing rules and regulations of the Build-Operate-Transfer law.

With the new approval process, Balisacan said the government hopes to see pending projects moving faster.

While simplifying the process is helpful in the processing of PPP permits, Terry Ridon, convenor of think tank Infrawatch PH said in an email, other permitting agencies already incorporate shorter deadlines into their processes.

He said the timelines are also typically waived for complicated permits and matters.

“The most consequential measures in improving private sector participation include showing the actual business case for entering into specific PPPs,” he said.

He said the government should ensure that political and regulatory risks are mitigated like the time when former President Rodrigo Duterte forced water concession contracts to be renegotiated on claims these had onerous provisions, which include prohibiting government from interfering in the setting of rates.

“This incident diminished private sector confidence that government upholds the sanctity of contracts,” Ridon said.

Earlier, Balisacan said the government is looking at PPPs to address constraints to growth and job creation and upgrade the country’s infrastructure.