By Camille A. Aguinaldo
THE Senate committee on economic affairs will open its inquiry on Tuesday into the status of infrastructure projects under the government’s Build, Build, Build program.
“The main objective is get updates on the BBB (Build, Build, Build) program,” committee chair Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian said in a text message.
The government’s flagship infrastructure program has been hounded by such issues as the mode of financing and delays in some projects. Senatorial candidate and former Bayan Muna party-list congressman Neri J. Colmenares has claimed that interest rates from loans secured from China for the Chico River pump irrigation project were “exceedingly high” compared with infrastructure projects in partnership with other countries. The Department of Finance (DoF), however, has said the loan agreement with China was vetted with the Investment Coordination Committee (ICC).
President Rodrigo R. Duterte also earlier cited lack of workers as among the causes of delay in the infrastructure projects.
Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said the government would need nearly one million construction workers to fill in the labor gaps of the Build, Build, Build program.
“We’re talking about 800,000 to one million,” Mr. Bello told reporters last week.
He said the construction industry has asked the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) to reduce the deployment of construction workers abroad to address the insufficient number of workers here.
“We have a very urgent need for additional construction workers and that is the reason why we even slowed down on the deployment of construction workers….There is a request from the construction industry not to deploy (construction workers) at the moment,” Mr. Bello said.
Mr. Bello also cited the job mismatch among Filipino construction workers, which is why the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) has been directed to accelerate its training program to “create these skills (among) construction workers.”
The Senate hearing is in line with Senate Resolutions 759 and 628, filed last year by Mr. Gatchalian and Senator Leila M. De Lima, respectively.
In Senate Resolution 759, Mr. Gatchalian wanted to look into the “status, sustainability and risks“ and modes of financing of infrastructure projects under the Build, Build, Build Program.
Ms. De Lima through Senate Resolution 628 sought an inquiry into loans entered into by the government.