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‘Build, Build, Build’ priorities shifting in favor of health, digital

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PHILIPPINE STAR/MICAHEL VARCAS

THE government will assign higher priority to health and digital infrastructure projects in its flagship “Build, Build, Build” program, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said.

NEDA Acting Director-General Karl Kendrick T. Chua said the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) is currently reviewing the infrastructure program to “reprioritize” such projects.

“These are now being reviewed by the DBCC. What we are thinking right now is we have to reprioritize our infrastructure program. We have to give more space to health infrastructure, digital infrastructure, and those are important in the new normal,” Mr. Chua said in an ABS-CBN News TV interview Monday.

Separately, he told BusinessWorld that the government may also consider funding more infrastructure projects via private-public partnerships (PPPs).

“If (the financing structure offers) value for money and will benefit the people of this and future generations, why not,” he said by mobile phone Monday when asked if the economic team will consider increasing the share of PPPs to free up funds for the government.

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The government softened its stance on PPP-funded projects when it expanded its P4.2-trillion infrastructure program to 100 projects, 26 of which are to be funded through PPPs. The previous list of 75 included eight PPPs.

Mr. Chua said despite the shifting priorities, the government will forge ahead with the infrastructure program due to its key role in the economic recovery.

Mr. Chua said the government still “stands a good chance” of completing “a lot” of the flagship projects when it continues to implement them in the next two and a half years, despite the disruptions from the pandemic and quarantine.

This year marks the second straight year the infrastructure timetable has been disrupted. In 2019 the budget was delayed until April and public works spending bans were in place because of the May elections, which wasted much of the dry season, which construction firms need to maximize before the rains halt work.

The administration hopes to start all 100 projects and complete “a significant number” before President Rodrigo R. Duterte steps down in 2022.

Mr. Chua said health safety protocols will still be observed once construction works for these projects resume. — Beatrice M. Laforga

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