THE AIRPORTS in the regional centers of Northern Mindanao and Davao are still on the government’s revised priority list of infrastructure projects, both with pending unsolicited proposals that have been granted original proponent status.

Mylah Faye B. Cariño, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Northern Mindanao regional director, said the Laguindingan Airport that replaced the old Cagayan de Oro airport and the Davao International Airport are among the 28 projects included in the administration’s priorities.

The identified projects mainly focus on the southern island’s network of transport and logistics system with 21 related to improving mobility for people and goods.

“To achieve the socio-economic agenda (of the administration) … among the drivers is the acceleration of infra construction and development of industries that will yield robust growth across the country and create jobs,” Ms. Cariño said during last week’s five-day Kusog Mindanaw 2021 virtual conference.

Both airport contracts were originally lined up for private-public partnership covering development, construction, and maintenance under a 30-year concession period.

In 2018, original proponent status was given to Aboitiz InfraCapital, Inc. for Laguindingan and Chelsea Logistics Holdings Corp. for Davao. Their proposals have yet to undergo the Swiss challenge process that would allow competitors to submit counteroffers.

Ms. Cariño also said NEDA is looking further in its planning to set up a “foundation for the next administration.”

One of the main components of ongoing policy adjustments is better “regional equity.”

“We are working to ensure data- and science-driven way of allocating resources across the regions and provinces,” she said.

“And as we implement the Mandanas ruling that gives local government units more resources (from national taxes), we have to be more discerning in how we allocate resources to the most important use.”

Under the National Government’s revised infrastructure priority list of 112 projects worth P4.69 trillion, Mindanao is getting an 11.76% share or P551.42 billion.

Ms. Cariño said prior to the latest project list revision in June, the P4.13-trillion flagship program as of 2020 allocated about 26.7% to the capital region Metro Manila, 51.5% to the rest of Luzon, 13.1% to Mindanao, and 8.7% to the Visayas.

Undersecretary Romeo M. Montenegro, executive director of the coordinating agency Mindanao Development Authority, said infrastructure priorities must be determined in line with boosting the southern islands’ strength, which is agriculture.

“In terms of looking at the way forward, in the process of identifying what projects should be implemented and where in Mindanao, in terms of connectivity — whether road, bridge, airport or seaport — should be linked to agricultural productivity,” he said at the same forum. 

“The need to overlay poverty situation, our commodities in Mindanao, and the kind of projects that will have to be implemented… should be the rationale and the basis by which the National Government identifies and prioritizes what projects to be implemented in the context of Build, Build, Build,” he said. — Marifi S. Jara