MANILA - Government’s ambitious P9.2-trillion infrastructure push is a “dismal failure,” Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Tuesday, noting that only 2 percent of the program has been implemented after 3 years.
Only 9 out of 75 Build, Build, Build flagship projects have started construction, Drilon told reporters on the sidelines of budget debates.
“Sad to say the Build, Build, Build project of the government has been a dismal failure,” he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte's “Build, Build, Build” program sought to bring the Philippines to its “golden age of infrastructure" by building road networks and modernizing the country’s main gateways.
It also hoped to spur economic growth in the country by providing jobs and boosting spending, especially in the construction sector.
Among the ongoing projects are the construction of the Clark Airport and 3 roads in the same area, and the refurbishment of the Estrella bridge and 2 other bridge projects in Metro Manila, said Senate Finance Committee chair Sen. Sonny Angara, who defended the finance department’s budget.
The government expects to complete 12 projects by next year, 17 more in 2021, and 26 others in 2022, he said.
But Drilon said “any substantial progress could not be achieved” within 2 years.
“The problem of underspending, bureaucracy not being able to respond and problem of ill-advised projects must be threshed out,” he said.
“Unfortunately, when we asked that question on the floor, they could not even answer. If they could not provide us with simple information, you can imagine their capacity to implement the project,” he said.
The Commission on Audit earlier cited the Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) - both at the helm of Build, Build, Build’s implementation - as the “worst performers when it comes to the capacity to disburse,” Drilon said.
“It is indicating that the choosing of the projects were haphazardly done,” he said.
“The disbursement will be the one that will create jobs, create roads, not a feasibility study,” he said.
In response, Malacañang dismissed Drilon's remarks as "baseless."
"Senator Frank, look at the administration you previously belonged, 6 years not a single infrastructure na nagawa (done)," Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.
The minority leader is allied with former president Benigno Aquino III.
Panelo then enumerated around 12 projects, including the MRT rehabilitation project expected to be finished in July 2021, the LRT East Extension project, which he said, was 64.85 percent complete, and the Sangley Airport in Cavite, which was 72 percent complete.
Citing DPWH data, Panelo said the administration has completed 9,845 kilometers of roadways, 2,700 bridges, 4,536 flood control projects, 82 evacuation centers and 71,803 classrooms.
Although several projects have yet to be completed, the Build, Build , Build program pushed the country's infrastructure spending to "more than 5 percent as recommended by the World Bank," Angara said.
"I would not say 'a dismal failure' kasi malalaking proyekto 'yan at matagal na tayo hindi nakakagawa ng malalaking proyekto (because these are big-ticket projects and it's been a while since we embarked on major projects)," he said. "Mahirap talaga mag-implement ng proyekto (It's really hard to implement projects) and that is not unique to this administration."
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia earlier said the government plans to “trim” the program’s 75 infrastructure projects, “substituting with others more economically feasible and doable."