THE INCOMING Marcos administration will work to entice more investors in its infrastructure program through public-private partnerships (PPPs), focusing on high-impact projects, according to the next head of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
“(President-elect Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.) said we have to continue to entice and invite the private sector through our public-private partnership, actually particularly in projects that are financially viable for them,” SMC Tollways President and Chief Executive Officer Manuel M. Bonoan said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel on Tuesday.
Outgoing President Rodrigo R. Duterte had previously steered clear of PPPs, a mode preferred by the Aquino administration, due to allegedly disadvantageous provisions such as state subsidies and sovereign guarantees.
Asked how the projects will be funded with the government’s depleted budget, Mr. Bonoan said: “We just have to be very selective on high-impact projects that we can now afford at this time — very selective in the sense that these are high-impact projects that can immediately contribute to the economic recovery.”
“We’ve realized that funds are very scarce at this time, although we will actually coordinate with the Department of Finance and the economic managers and get guidance from them on how we will continue with the Build, Build, Build program.”
Mr. Bonoan said Mr. Marcos also wants the DPWH to support the food production and tourism programs.
High-impact projects would include those that address traffic congestion to provide “unimpeded travel for the delivery of goods and services that will redound actually to lesser costs, most probably in the costs of commodities and services,” he said.
“We just have to reprioritize some of the projects in the pipeline, so… we will be selecting infrastructure projects, most especially in the road sector, which is the core function of the department, to get high-impact infrastructure projects that can contribute immediately to propel the much-needed economic recovery of the country,” Mr. Bonoan said.
At the same time, he vowed to address corruption and ensure the quality of projects, as well as be “prudent in using our resources.”
“We intend to correct all these. We need to reassess the modality of how our infrastructure [projects] are being undertaken this time and make sure that these are quality infrastructure that we are going to do. There are many things that we can correct immediately.”
Mr. Bonoan said president-elect Marcos instructed him to ensure that unfinished infrastructure projects should be completed as soon as possible so these can help drive economic recovery.
On questions over the role of San Miguel Corp. (SMC) in the government’s infrastructure projects now that he will be heading the DPWH, he said public-private partnerships “are big projects that are not unilaterally decided by the DPWH” and will undergo scrutiny by the government.
In April, DPWH officials said the current administration had completed 12 out 119 flagship projects.
Of the 119 infrastructure flagship projects, seven were completed in 2020, including the P18-billion New Clark City Phase 1 and the P14.97-billion Clark International Airport Expansion Project, and five in 2021, including the P21.97-billion MRT-3 Rehabilitation Project.
The department expects the completion of seven more big projects by June 30 and 12 more by December, including the P45.29-billion Southeast Metro Manila Expressway Project and the P75-billion MRT-7 of SMC.
SMC announced on Tuesday that its infrastructure arm has already started construction on a 20-hectare property in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan that will serve as the train depot of the MRT-7 project.
Meanwhile, Ivan John E. Uy, who was tapped by Mr. Marcos to head the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), said the new administration will prioritize digitization and improving the country’s connectivity.
“One of the solutions we are looking at now is the Starlink project of Elon Musk. This will actually provide direct linkage without laying those expensive fiber optic cables,” he said in a separate ANC interview.
Mr. Uy oversaw the formulation of the Philippine digital strategy from 2011 to 2016, according to incoming Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles. He chaired the Commission on Information and Communication and Technology under the administration of former President Benigno S.C. Aquino III. — Arjay L. Balinbin