Workers are seen mixing cement at a construction site in Quezon City, May 19, 2020. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

A PROPOSED executive order (EO) aimed at expediting the processing of requirements for infrastructure flagship projects (IFPs) will be ready before yearend, a National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) official said.

“It’s been with the Office of the President so it’s at the final review and final touches. We expect the EO to be issued within the year, very soon,” NEDA Undersecretary Joseph J. Capuno told reporters in mixed English and Filipino on the sidelines of a Stratbase ADR Institute forum on Wednesday.

“The idea behind the EO is to expedite the approval of all those projects that have already gone through the NEDA Board and are already part of the IFPs,” he added.

In September, NEDA Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan first announced the draft EO which aims to “enable the expeditious processing of licenses, clearances, permits, certifications and authorizations for the IFPs.”

It also aims to minimize and ultimately eliminate delays in the implementation of these projects, he added.

Under the EO, the simplified requirements would be applicable to both pending and new applications that are part of the approved list of IFPs.

It would also promote the automation of databases for more efficient data-sharing among agencies and facilitate electronic application submissions.

There are currently 197 projects under the government’s IFP program worth P8.7 trillion. The bulk of these projects are involved in physical connectivity (122), followed by projects involving water resources (44) and agriculture (15).

“From the local government units to National Government agencies, to the Executive branch and regulatory agencies — all of them should expedite the approvals. From right-of-way issues to issuance of licenses to issuance of whatever permits are required. All of those will be expedited once the EO is issued,” Mr. Capuno added.

Meanwhile, Mr. Capuno also said that the NEDA Board would likely approve at least three or four more infrastructure projects before the end of the year.

“I would think three or four (projects) at least. There’s another technical board meeting then a Cabinet committee meeting in the coming weeks before the NEDA board convenes, so that (number) may still be increased,” he said.

Mr. Capuno also clarified that no other projects have backed out of funding from China apart from the three major railway projects.

“There are also (China-funded projects) continuing. Not everything was withdrawn, just these railways. These were pending for a long time, but we have not received any approval or response from the Chinese government, but there are some other China projects that pushed through,” he added.

Earlier this month, the Transportation department said it was not pursuing China as a funding source for the South Long-Haul Railway, Mindanao Railway, and Subic-Clark Railway projects. The government said it was seeking other sources of official development assistance (ODA) from Japan, South Korea, or India.

“These are priority projects, if we can identify alternative sources that will speed up the approval and implementation, why not? I think I would say (we’re) very attractive to development partners, lenders and all that because these are all very good projects,” Mr. Capuno added. — Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson