Source: Philippine Star, 3 January 2012


MANILA (Xinhua) — The Philippines has announced that it would spend a total of 141.8 billion pesos (1 U.S. dollar equals to 43.75 pesos) on infrastructure projects  this year in a bid to reverse the economic slowdown experienced in 2011.

In a statement, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said that the whole amount would be released this month to various government agencies to enable them to immediately implement projects that are mostly related to transportation, agriculture, educational facilities and flood control systems.

Obviously, the government has learned a lesson last year when it withheld the bulk of its programmed funds for government projects after President Benigno Aquino cautioned government agencies to be extra careful in disbursing funds so as not to repeat the corrupt practices in the past.

The under-spending during most part of 2011 resulted in less economic activities, causing the gross domestic product (GDP) for the third quarter to grow by only 3.2 percent, the lowest in the Asian region.

Although the government’s economic managers have expressed confidence that the full-year growth would not be far below its low-end forecast of 4.5 percent, multilateral lending institutions have agreed that the country’s economic growth in 2011 would be only 3.7-3.8 percent.

Hoping to reeve up economic activities and generate employment, particularly in the countryside, Abad said that projects that had been lined up include national roads and bridges, airports, seaports and lighthouses, classrooms and other education facilities, potable water supply systems, irrigation and post- harvest facilities and flood-control and slope-protection structures.

Abad explained that the 141.8 billion pesos made up 78 percent of the total 182.2 billion pesos allocated for government infrastructure under the 2012 national budget.

Of the amount slated for release, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) would get the lion’s share with 91.57 billion pesos for roads, bridges and flood-control projects, including expenses for right of way.

The Department of Agriculture will get 24.49 billion pesos, while the Department of Agrarian Reform will receive 3.31 billion pesos–all for farm-to-market roads, post-harvest facilities and facilities for potable water supply and irrigation.

In order to boost the country’s tourism industry, an additional 3.1 billion pesos will go to the construction of access roads to airports and roll-on/roll-off ports, which lead to various tourist destinations.

Ports that will particularly benefit from the fund are those in Boracay (Aklan), Palawan, Bohol, and Cebu as well as other sites in Bicol, Mindanao and Northern and Central Luzon.

In total, 255.2 billion pesos of the 1.816-trillion pesos national budget for 2012 has been allocated for infrastructure and other capital outlays.

According to the National Economic and Development Authority ( NEDA), Japan is funding about 46.88-billion-pesos worth of flood control, irrigation and road transport projects nationwide.

NEDA said the projects were programmed for funding during Japan ‘ s current fiscal year, which ends on March 30, 2012.

Meanwhile, the public-private partnership (PPP), the flagship program of the Aquino administration, is set to finally take off this year with 16 projects expected to be bid out.

According to Ronaldo F. Corpus, project development service director of the PPC Center, 10 of the 16 projects lined up would be supported by the 550 million peso (12.7 million U.S. dollars) Project Development and Monitoring Facility (PDMF).

The PDMF fund is used for pre-investment studies with expenses to be reimbursed later by the winning bidders.

Corpus said that the target was for the bidding on the 16 projects to start around the second or third quarter of 2012.

Also this year, the Philippine government would renegotiate the terms of the Chinese-funded NorthRail contract that will meet the country’s current transport needs.

Transportation and Communications Secretary Mar Roxas has said that under the new contract, the Philippine government will write the terms of reference “to ensure that the contractor has the capability and track record to carry out the railway project.”

The NorthRail project, approved during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and funded with a concessional loan from the Chinese Export-Import Credit Agency, would connect Metro Manila to the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport at the Clark Special Economic Zone, a former U.S. military facility some 80 kilometers north of Manila.