By Jenina P. Ibañez, Senior Reporter

THE Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Center wants more projects on health and climate resiliency as it prepares for the next administration.

“With the pandemic still affecting our lives, health projects can help address the challenges that we face in terms of limited hospital beds and facilities, particularly in the regions,” the center said in an e-mail.

“And with the challenge of climate change being felt, worldwide, it becomes imperative for the Philippines to adapt infrastructure that can help mitigate these devastating effects. We have already seen the damage that can be done with the recent destruction brought by Typhoon Odette.”

PPP projects valued at P7.2 billion are in the pipeline, the PPP Center said, covering 63 projects, mostly in the transportation sector.

“Most projects cover transportation (roads, airports, ports),” the center said. “Meanwhile, health, solid waste management projects, water supply projects are of particular interest for local government units.”

The center said that “the next administration can readily pursue and implement these projects.”

PPPs in these sectors are significant because they provide alternative sources for funding amid the government’s limited fiscal space, it added.

“PPPs also allow implementing agencies to gain access to technologies, operational and management expertise that the private sector can provide through their resources, experiences, and expertise.”

The PPP Center maintains that PPPs are still viable options for the next government to roll out infrastructure and development projects.

“As the government continues to grapple with the devastating effects of Typhoon Odette and other climate resiliency issues as well as COVID-19, PPPs can help address the infrastructure gaps in our health and environment sectors.”

The Duterte administration had previously steered clear of PPPs due to allegedly disadvantageous provisions such as subsidies and guarantees.

But the government is working on amending the rules implementing the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) Law in a bid to avoid “onerous” contract provisions in PPP projects, or unwarranted guarantees taking up the country’s fiscal space.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte in November — just eight months before a new administration takes office — named Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua as the chairman of a committee that would amend the implementing rules of the law authorizing the private sector to build and operate infrastructure projects.

The PPP Center said discussions on the rule changes are still ongoing, with a stakeholder consultation set to be done this quarter.

Zy-za Nadine Suzara, executive director of the Institute for Leadership, Empowerment, and Democracy (I-LEAD), said the next administration should consider PPPs as an investment strategy for public infrastructure.

These include projects supporting transportation, information and communications technology, disaster risk reduction, and green infrastructure, she said in a Viber message.

“PPPs will allow the next administration to maximize the limited fiscal space due to the impact of the global pandemic and harness private sector expertise and resources.”

John Paolo R. Rivera, an economist at the Asian Institute of Management, said PPPs can help make infrastructure projects more cost efficient than a more bureaucratic public sector.

“At the same time, the checks and balances of public sector practice mitigate the ‘corporateness’ of the project and ensure that it is not business-oriented but rather towards the common good of the public,” he said in a Viber message.

But the government should make sure that the projects prioritize delivering public services, he added, rather than commercialization driven by the private sector recovering costs.

Because the projects still use public funds, Ms. Suzara said that the next administration should ensure evidence-based cost estimates and transparent project development, procurement, and contracting.

“The next administration should also welcome the participation of civil society organizations and the private sector in monitoring projects,” she said.

“These measures are already encapsulated in various rules and regulations of the government but they need to be strongly enforced by the next administration to avoid leakages and corruption.”