Palace rejects claim of slow start to infrastructure projects

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THE Palace said the government’s infrastructure program is making progress and defended the slow going on some public works as due to “caution” in completing preliminary activities like acquiring right-of-way.

The President’s Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said Tuesday at a briefing: “Maraming ginagawa ng administrasyon (The government is doing a lot)… It’s not only nine (projects).”

Mr. Panelo was referring to claims that the government has started construction on only nine of 75 key projects.

He also dismissed as “baseless” the claim by Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon that the infrastructure program was a “dismal failure.”

Mr. Drilon told reporters Tuesday that the “Build, Build, Build” program is underperforming, adding that only nine out of the total 75 projects have begun construction. He also said the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and Department of Transportation (DoTr) have been slow to disburse project funds.

On the progress of the building program, Mr. Panelo said: “Mabagal kasi siguro maingat. For instance, kung meron kang isang project na hindi mo maumpisahan kasi meron kang right-of-way issues bakit ka re-release ng funds? The fact remains that maraming projects (It is slow maybe because the agencies need to be cautious… Projects may not have started because of right-of-way issues. If that’s not resolved, then why release funds? The fact remains that there are a lot of projects.”

He also said that President Rodrigo R. Duterte thinks highly of Public Works Secretary Mark A. Villar because he has “done a lot.”

As a rejoinder to Mr. Drilon’s claim of nine projects under construction, Mr. Panelo said he is aware of the following projects under construction: the LRT 1 commuter rail line Cavite Extension (Baclaran-Cavite), MRT-3 commuter rail line rehabilitation, the Metro Manila Subway, the MRT-7 Common Station, the LRT-2 East Extension, the Philippine National Railways (PNR) Clark line Phase 1 from Tutuban to Malolos, the PNR Clark Phase 2 from Malolos to Clark, the PNR Bicol line from Manila to Sorsogon, the PNR Calamba line, the Subic-Clark Railway, Bulacan Airport, Sangley Airport, the Mindanao Railway from Tagum to Davao and Digos, the Clark Airport Expansion, and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport rehabilitation.

Some major projects are expected to be completed by the time the government completes its term in 2022, he said.

As of July, the total financing requirement for “Build, Build, Build” projects was P2.40 trillion. — Gillian M. Cortez