UN body says PHL well-positioned for rapid infra rollout

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Construction crew work on a section of the Metro Manila Skyway project on Araneta Ave. in Quezon City. -- PHILIPPINE STAR/MICHAEL VARCAS

THE United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) finds the Philippines to be among the most prepared  to implement major infrastructure projects in the region.

The Department of Finance (DoF) said these were the conclusions of a UNESCAP workshop in late August.

“The workshop found the Philippines to be among the most ready in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) in boosting infrastructure development,” Finance Undersecretary Gil S. Beltran said in a statement.

The two-day Workshop on Infrastructure Financing Strategies was organized by UNESCAP on Aug. 29 to 30 in Makati city.

UNESCAP said that the country has “strong project evaluation and prioritization system based on economic viability” in undertaking infra projects.

It also noted that the Republic Act No.10752, or the Right-of-Way Act, will tend to speed up the roll-out of projects, as it facilitates government and affected landowners’ negotiations on the ownership of land for a project site, according to Mr. Beltran.

“Another favorable factor cited by UNESCAP is the country’s Public-Private Partnership law that sets up an institution and a set of rules to implement projects in an orderly manner and a private sector that is aggressive in participating,” the DoF said.

The DoF said that the UN regional development arm also noted “substantial financing opportunities” in the country amid the government’s plan to spend about P8.4 trillion on infrastructure over the medium term.

The government’s tax reform program, rising revenue collection, and declining debt service ratio, “all contribute to an adequate fiscal space that would allow the country to pursue an expansionary policy on the Duterte watch.”

However, Mr. Beltran said that the workshop flagged the limited number of projects in less-developed regions and modest participation by local governments.

According to the National Economic and Development Authority, 2,857 infrastructure projects worth P524.48 billion or about 56.06%, of the total of P935.55 billion region-specific projects in its three-year rolling infrastructure program will be built in areas outside the National Capital Region.

This compares to 293 projects for Metro Manila, which are worth P180.37 billion, or 19.28% of the total. — Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan