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By Daphne J. Magturo, Reporter

PPP projects excluded from poll ban

Posted on December 14, 2015

THE COMMISSION on Elections (Comelec) has clarified that public-private partnership (PPP) projects are excluded from the upcoming election ban on public works, assuring investors that this will not delay billions of pesos worth of infrastructure development.

“The election season will not have much impact on those that we are tendering right now. We got confirmation from the Comelec that PPP projects are not subject to election ban so we expect na tuloy tuloy pa rin kami (that we will proceed as scheduled),” PPP Center Executive Director Cosette V. Canilao said in a recent interview at the agency’s headquarters in Quezon City.

In an Oct. 20 letter to Ms. Canilao, Comelec Commissioner Christian Robert S. Lim wrote: “the Commission En Banc, through Minute Resolution No. 15-0681 dated 21 September... has approved your request for confirmation of the non-applicability of Section 261 (v) and (w) of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC) on public works projects executed under a ‘build-operate-transfer’ (BOT) scheme...”

The Section 261 (v) of OEC forbids public officials from releasing public funds 45 days before a regular election, while Section (w) prohibits construction of public works “to prevent the misuse of public funds by public officials... for purposes of campaigning.”

For the May 2016 national polls, the ban on “release, disbursement or expenditures of public funds” and on “construction of public works, delivery of materials for public works” runs from March 25 to May 8, according to Comelec Resolution No. 9981.

“Because of the high visibility of public works projects, unscrupulous public officials or candidates would grab the opportunity to publicize their names or faces on posters that contain information about the public works projects, giving the general public the impression that the said projects are being undertaken through the initiative or benevolence of the public official or candidate,” read the minutes of the Comelec’s Sept. 21 special en banc meeting, signed by Comelec Chairman J. Andres D. Bautista.

PPP projects’ exclusion from the ban will “assure the PPP Center’s partners and prospective bidders of BOT projects that critical infrastructure projects that are scheduled for implementation in the coming year will not be hampered or unduly delayed by restrictions imposed by the OEC on public works projects,” Mr. Lim said separately in a Sept. 11 memorandum.

Still, the election ban will apply “when public funds will be disbursed or released, as in the case where the services of an independent consultant will be contracted through public bidding...”

“The PPPCP (PPP Center of the Philippines) must ensure that all PPP projects must never be used as material for any election propaganda. Public notices of the said projects must not contain the name, logo, image, initials and any identifying symbol attributable to certain public officials or individuals that are currently in the leadership of the implementing agencies of the said PPP projects,” the Comelec said.

Sought for comment, Hector M. Sales, economist at Woodfields Consultants, Inc., said in a mobile phone reply: “Comelec’s decision is right. Delaying the implementation of infra[structure] projects will bring about losses to the economy due to stoppage of some economic activities of people who would directly and indirectly be affected by the stalemate such as businessmen, personnel and laborers...”

But for Asian Institute of Management economist Emmanuel A. Leyco, the ruling would “defeat the purpose” of the ban. “The big contractors will have at their disposal billions for infra spending that could go to contractors and suppliers, manpower employment. So, you can just imagine the influence they can wield during this period,” he explained in a separate mobile phone reply.

Henry J. Schumacher, executive vice-president of the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, said in a mobile phone reply that the Comelec’s decision “makes sense” because the Philippines “badly” needs infrastructure, “provided, however, that the integrity principles are not compromised.”

John D. Forbes, senior adviser of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, said separately via text that the Comelec’s move “increases the prospects of awarding more projects that are moving through the pipeline in the months ahead.”

He added that business groups will encourage the succeeding administration to continue “all properly awarded PPP projects.”

“This is indeed a welcome decision as there are still PPPs coming out of the pipeline. Hopefully, if ready to be rolled out, these PPPs -- many of which are vital infrastructure projects -- will not suffer further delays just because of an election ban,” added Makati Business Club Executive Director Peter Angelo V. Perfecto.

Fifteen PPP deals are in various stages of procurement: Operation & Maintenance of Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line-2 (with no capital expenditure estimate yet); P298-million Road Transport Information Technology Infrastructure Project (Phase II); P1.59-billion Civil Registry System Information Technology Project (Phase II); P2.34-billion New Bohol (Panglao) Airport Development, Operations & Maintenance Project; P14.62-billion Laguindingan Airport Development, Operations & Maintenance Project; P18.72-billion New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project; P18.99-billion Davao Sasa Port Modernization Project; P20.26-billion Bacolod Airport Development, Operations & Maintenance Project; P30.4-billion Iloilo Airport Development, Operations & Maintenance Project; P40.57-billion Davao Airport Development, Operations & Maintenance Project; P42.89-billion LRT Line 4 Project; P50.18-billion Regional Prison Facilities through PPP; P65.09-billion LRT Line 6 Project; P122.8-billion Laguna Lakeshore Expressway Dike Project; and P170.7-billion North-South Railway Project (South Line).

Twelve contracts cumulatively worth some P217.4 billion have been awarded since the program was launched in 2010.