GMA News, 16 December 2014
By Danessa O. Rivera
The Philippines may play a major role in Southeast Asia’s push for regional connectivity as it is well ahead of the game in terms of the public-private partnership (PPP) program in infrastructure development.

A key aspect the ASEAN region may adopt is the country’s dedicated fund and central agency for all PPP projects.

“The Philippines’ PPP practice and mechanism is well ahead of ASEAN member states,” Permanent Representative of Myanmar to ASEAN Ambassador Min Lwin said in a briefing during the ASEAN PPP Networking Forum in Manila.

In fact, the dignitary revealed Myanmar has yet to have a PPP program.

By 2015, the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) sets in motion the creation of a single market spanning the 10-nation bloc which include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

ASEAN has adopted a master plan on connectivity to improve the transport, information communications and technology (ICT), and institutional connection in the region.

“We have this network forum, not only because we need some financing and assistance but also private participation in implementing our master plan in ASEAN connectivity that includes infrastructure, institution and people-to-people connectivity,” Lwin said.

“Infrastructure connectivity is most difficult. The private sector does not want to invest in infrastructure connectivity because it’s not bankable,” he added.

As the region faces this difficulty, Philippine Ambassador Elizabeth Buensuceso said there is a growing interest in studying the PPP model of the Philippines.

“We are noticing considerable interest among ASEAN member states to get interested in PPP because of what they are seeing in the Philippines. We are being looked up to as a model,” she said in the same briefing.

Interest does not only come from our nearby neighbors, but also outside ASEAN.

“There is a rapid increase in interest, but what we’re seeing is our dialog partners like Australia, Japan, EU, Korea, Canada… They are becoming more interested in PPP,” Buensuceso said.

Pooled fund for ASEAN PPP

To propel ASEAN connectivity, the Philippine ambassador is keen on suggesting to the 10-member ASEAN board to put up a similar fund like the Philippine Project Development and Monitoring Facility (PDMF).

“It’s an interesting suggestion and a viable one [as] the ASEAN group wants to really promote PPP agenda. Then it should have a mechanism, a fund to drive it,” Buensuceso said.

According to the PPP Center website, the PDMF is a revolving pool of funds from the Philippine government and the government of Australia under a Capacity Building Technical Assistance project from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Canadian Government to enhance the investment environment for PPP and to develop a robust pipeline of viable and well-prepared PPP infrastructure projects.

The PPP Center is the state agency tasked to review the PPP projects.

“The PDMF” is a critical success factor of the PPP program. It is something I would recommend ASEAN should seriously look at,” PPP Center executive director Cosette Canilao said.

Initial funding for PDMF is P550 million and the PPP Center is requesting for more financing to bankroll projects.

“We have a request for [Department of Budget and Management] to infuse more funds into it. Also our partners are looking at putting more funds into the PDMF,” she said.

Apart from a dedicated fund, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the Philippines can be an ideal place to set up an ASEAN institution for capacity building, training, research on PPP.

“One of the things we want to advance with our PPP Center, sharing it with other countries, is the knowledge we generate out of our experience,” he said.

“We have to systematically generate that knowledge. For that reason, we have been subjecting our PPP experience in to a more systematic evaluation so that we can learn what has worked and what has not…” he noted. – VS, GMA News