Acting Socio-economic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said the flagship “Build, Build, Build” program has the potential to create around one million jobs once construction returns to full operations following the lockdown.

“On the ‘Build, Build, Build” program, in general, what we see here is every P1 million spent on the infrastructure program, we are seeing on job that is being created. So our infrastructure program is likely, when resumed fully, to create a million jobs, both direct and indirect,” Mr. Chua said in a briefing Friday.

The economic team is banking on the multiplier effect of infrastructure to revive the economy, which had ground to a halt during the lockdown.

“From the experience of the past few years, we see a significant boost actually to domestic demand as we resume many of the infrastructure programs and as we create the jobs that are associated with it,” he said.

The Labor department in May estimated that around 10 million Filipinos could lose their jobs this year due to the pandemic.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) estimated that month that the economy stands to lose P2.2 trillion in gross value-added this year as worker incomes dwindled while others were losing their jobs.

Nearly 70,000 Overseas Filipino Workers were repatriated between February and early July after losing their jobs in countries that were also hit hard by the coronavirus crisis.

Mr. Chua said the infrastructure program is still being reviewed and revised to prioritize projects with higher economic impact and are shovel-ready and fundable.

He added that the economic team is looking to move up the priority list infrastructure projects that will improve the health system, the digital economy, water and housing.

“We also want to assure that the funding will not only be available this year but in two years to assure their bankability. We will be releasing very soon the updated list,” he said.

The Budget department reduced spending on infrastructure projects for 2020 to around P833 billlion from the initial P989-billion as the government redirected funding to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) containment effort.

The infrastructure spending target was increased to P1.131 trillion in 2021, or around 5.3% of gross domestic product, with officials counting on Build, Build, Build to turbocharge growth from the expected low base in 2020.

The economic team said the 2021 budget will support the completion of the projects until 2022, fuel economic growth to 8-9% next year and generate around 140,000-220,000 additional jobs directly and indirectly.

The economy is projected to contract 2-3.4% this year. — Beatrice M. Laforga