BIG-TICKET projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Transportation (DoTr) will not be affected by budget cuts, officials said on Monday.

“I’m handling big-ticket projects. They’re not affected by the budget cut,” DPWH Build, Build, Build Chairman Anna Mae Y. Lamentillo told BusinessWorld in a phone message, adding that the department is still preparing the “final list” of the affected projects.

She said among the unaffected big-ticket projects are Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3 and the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx) Extension.

The DPWH said in a statement on May 14 that it resumed work on several flagship projects in Metro Manila, including the Bonifacio Global City-Ortigas Center Link Road Project, the Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge Project connecting Makati City and Mandaluyong City, and the Binondo-Intramuros Bridge.

Public and private construction projects have been allowed to resume under the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) but workers must be housed and fed onsite and observe distancing rules, among other requirements for construction work during the pandemic.

DoTr Assistant Secretary Goddes Hope O. Libiran said in a separate phone message: “According to our Undersecretary for Finance Garry V. de Guzman, DoTr big-ticket projects are not affected. They will still push through until partial operability and completion.”

On whether the government’s reduced and redirected budgets will affect smaller projects, she said: “No. We only offered the peso portion of certain projects, and those budgets that we can no longer disburse within the year.”

Asked to elaborate, she said: “For instance, the MRT-3 rehabilitation project. While the peso portion of this project has been offered, the project is still in full swing. In fact, total rail replacement is scheduled to be completed by the end of September 2020.”

In April, Ms. Libiran said her department identified 35 transport projects where around P15 billion could be freed up for the government’s coronavirus relief efforts.

She declined to provide the list, but said the cut is across all transport sectors such as rails, airports, ports and roads.

The projects are not being canceled and will still proceed since only a portion of their budgets will be realigned, Ms. Libiran said.

According to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), allotments for line departments were adjusted in April in order to augment the budget of agencies responding to the pandemic.

Under Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, President Rodrigo R. Duterte has the authority to realign funds to the COVID-19 containment effort.

The DPWH suffered the biggest budget cut at P121.94 billion, bringing its allocation this year to P458.95 billion from more than P580 billion originally.

The DoTr’s budget was trimmed by P8.82 billion to P90.58 billion.

Budget Undersecretary Tina Rose Marie L. Canda said in a phone message on Sunday that the DPWH “had the biggest unreleased budget amount kaya sila ’yung malaki ang na-offer (which is why the DPWH had the most funds on offer).” — Arjay L. Balinbin