THE Public Private Partnership (PPP) Center expects at least 20 solicited projects to advance to the Investment Coordination Committee (ICC) and/or the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) for approval this year.

Initially, PPP Center Undersecretary and Executive Director Ma. Cynthia C. Hernandez said only 15 projects are expected to be approved this year.

Hernandez said there could be more projects, depending on the number of unsolicited projects that could be submitted for ICC or Neda Board evaluation and approval. Right after the passage of the PPP Code, the PPP Center has already processed 20 unsolicited projects.

“Some of them are being assisted by the PPP Center as well to go through the solicited route. So I think within the year, a substantial number of those would be submitted to Neda. We’re thinking around 20 to the ICC,” Hernandez said.

“But I think the sort of wild card in here is the unsolicited proposals. So even prior to the passing of the IRR, the PPP center has already received and processed over 20 unsolicited proposals,” she added.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said this more optimistic assessment is due to the streamlined approval process for PPP projects under the newly signed PPP Code Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR).

Balisacan explained that not all PPP projects will go through Neda Board approval. If these projects are below P15 billion and would not require government guarantees or any subsidy from the government, such as those for right-of-way acquisition, these projects need only to secure a nod from the ICC.

“For projects that are P15 billion and above, they will go through the Neda board, as I’ve explained before. But for projects that are below that threshold, and which do not require any form of subsidy from government, they do not have to go through anymore to the Neda board,” Balisacan said.

The Neda Secretary said that smaller PPPs that do not meet the P2.5 billion threshold of the ICC, such as small local government unit (LGU) projects, can already be decided at the local level. The fate of these projects can even be approved by the Sanggunian Councils.

Hernandez said this is behind the PPP Center’s efforts to conduct capacity-building efforts for LGUs in terms of project evaluation and approval. This will help them make informed decisions when deciding on projects to undertake.

This will also allow the 120-day evaluation period set in the IRR of the PPP Code. This means all projects have to be evaluated and approved within this period allowing a faster turnaround time for PPPs.

Meanwhile, the government is confident that PPPs for high-quality social and development infrastructure will continue to thrive under a predictable policy environment.

On Thursday, Balisacan said its completion underscores the government’s commitment to sustaining the infrastructure push under the “Build-Better-More” program aimed at social and economic transformation.

“The PPP Program is a major government initiative—in light of the tight fiscal space, it is an essential component of the President’s transformation agenda under the Philippine Development Plan [PDP] 2023-2028. We are in a hurry to get strategic investments to increase our economy’s growth potential,” Balisacan said.

“The momentum for reform and action is strong, and we are pulling out all the stops for investors who wish to do business in one of the most promising economies in the region,” he added.

The PPP Code and its IRR aim to strengthen and institutionalize PPPs in the country by providing a unified legal framework for all PPPs at both national and local levels.

This landmark legislation clarifies the ambiguities in the Build-Operate-Transfer Law, which was last amended in 1994, and other existing PPP legal frameworks.

The law will enable much-needed development across various sectors of the economy and accelerate the delivery of affordable, accessible, and efficient public services.

“With the PPP Code IRR now signed, we are confident that its updated policy framework will strengthen the country’s investment ecosystem. This framework is designed to be efficient, fair, and promote stronger collaboration between the public and private sectors,” Hernandez said.

Republic Act No. 11966, or the PPP Code of the Philippines, was signed into law on December 5, 2023, and came into effect on December 23.

The PPP Governing Board, acting as the PPP Code IRR Committee, was mandated to promulgate the IRR within 90 days from the effectivity of the law, or by March 23, 2024.

Since January, the committee has been conducting online and in-person consultations to solicit questions, suggestions, and recommendations from key stakeholders in the public and private sectors, development partners, and other organizations to craft and finalize the IRR.

After its signing today, the copy of the IRR will be available to the public on March 22, 2024. The IRR will take effect 15 calendar days after publication or on April 6, 2024.