THE Department of Transportation (DoTr) said the government’s large-scale projects undertaken with the private sector have the potential to upend the status quo in the infrastructure-deficient country.

“Our transport projects highlight the efforts of our government in pushing the infrastructure agenda. Armed with innovative strategies and tools, we plan to disturb the status quo in the transport sector,” Transportation Secretary Jaime J. Bautista said at the 4th Philippine Economic briefing in the US, which was live streamed on social media. 

In August, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board approved three more projects for the infrastructure flagship project program, increasing the pipeline to 197 projects, valued at P8.71 trillion. 

Of these projects, 73 are being undertaken by the DoTr, Mr. Bautista said.

The participation of the private sector is crucial in boosting infrastructure, he said, helping accelerate the completion of the department’s projects.

The DoTr said it is now finalizing the terms of reference (ToR) for the operations and maintenance of the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3).

“We are now working with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to finalize the terms of reference for the operations and maintenance of MRT-3… we are hoping that by July 2025 this will be operated by the private sector,” Mr. Bautista said.

Earlier this year, the DoTr said it is studying its options for the privatization of the MRT-3 once its build-lease-transfer contract lapses in 2025.

In September, the DoTr said it is reviewing the rules governing the handling of multiple unsolicited proposals after receiving a second bid to operate MRT-3.

“We have also requested the private sector to participate in the bidding for the operations and maintenance of NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport). We are now in the process of meeting with these prospective bidders and we hope that by Dec. 27, they will submit their proposals,” Mr. Bautista said.

So far, at least eight entities have bought bid documents for the upgrade of NAIA. The DoTr is hoping to evaluate the bids and award a contract by the first quarter.

Aside from these projects, the Department of Public Works and Highways is also working to accelerate completion of its programs. 

 “The Philippines will soon have (its version of the) Golden Gate Bridge in Metro Manila. This is what we are aiming to implement probably by next year,” Public Works Secretary Manuel M. Bonoan said.

He was referring to the Cavite-Bataan interlink bridge, a 32.15-kilometer four-lane bridge crossing the mouth of Manila Bay with the landing points at Mariveles, Bataan and Naic, Cavite.

Construction will start in 2024, Mr. Bonoan said. Once completed, the bridge is expected to reduce travel time between the provinces of Bataan and Cavite to 45 minutes from five and a half hours. 

“Of the two main areas that we should focus on, one is hard infrastructure, which we talked about, but I would like to talk about digital infrastructure… The biggest part that I think the private sector can (offer) is talent,” according to Sabin M. Aboitiz, president and chief executive officer of the Aboitiz Group and lead convenor of Private Sector Advisory Council.

Mr. Aboitiz said the private sector is working closely with the government on upskilling to keep up with the pace of innovation in technology.

“We have already provided a very enabling environment for foreign investors looking to capitalize on all these burgeoning opportunities in the Philippines, the ICT (information communications technology) is one of them,” Information Communication Secretary Ivan John E. Uy said. — Ashley Erika O. Jose