THE government is adding more public-private partnerships (PPP) projects in its list of flagship infrastructure projects, and replacing some big ticket items with “smaller but game-changing” ones, according to the chief of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said the list, which originally had 75, will now have 100 infrastructure flagship projects.

“Big projects have been taken out and substituted with smaller projects but game changing for the regions. We also included a number of PPPs,” Mr. Pernia told reporters after the AmBisyon Nation 2040 symposium in Taguig City on Friday.

He said many projects in the list are now under construction, such as Department of Public Works and Highways’ road projects in Northern Luzon, Mindanao and Visayas.

Mr. Pernia said unsolicited proposals from the private sector such as the New Manila International Airport in Bulacan, and the rehabilitation of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) will be included in the list of flagship projects.

He said some projects in the original list have been dropped after these were deemed “impossible” given the lack of technology to build in “very deep waters and long bridges.”

For instance, the proposed bridge from Matnog, Sorgogon to Allen, Samar has been scrapped after a study showing it was not economically or financially viable.

The NEDA chief said other projects that have been junked are the proposed bridge from Leyte to Surigao which was “really just very challenging”, and the “very costly” Cebu-Bohol bridge.”

Mr. Pernia said the official list of infrastructure flagship projects will be posted on the NEDA website next week.

As of July, the list of infrastructure flagship projects stood at 75 with an indicative total investment requirement of P2.417 trillion.

Mr. Pernia also said that they are confident that majority of the projects in the updated list will be completed or “substantially started” before the end of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s term on June 30, 2022.

According to the July status report of the 75 flagship infrastructure projects, 21 projects worth P187.63 billion are set to be completed by 2022, while 54 other projects worth P2.23 trillion are expected to be completed after 2022.

Asked about the inclusion of more PPP projects, the NEDA chief admitted there was “some hesitancy to PPP projects before”.

The PPP program basically taps into the third way of financing infrastructure projects — the private sector, as an alternative to direct government funding or foreign loans.

However, Mr. Pernia said the ”mindset has adjusted overtime,” suggesting that the impact of projects should be seen more in terms of employment creation, contribution to gross domestic product growth, the multiplier effects, and the direct and indirect economic activities generated.

“We should look at the bigger picture. Let’s not be too obsessed over little gains to be made by the private sector proponent or little loss in the part of government, let’s look at the bigger picture. Let’s not be too restrictive,” Mr. Pernia said.

During his term, President Benigno S.C. Aquino III had pitched PPPs as the solution to addressing the country’s infrastructure needs. — Beatrice M. Laforga