Duterte reverses Aquino admin failures, makes good on infrastructure development promises

The Rappler article “Aquino to end term with 7 completed PPP projects” dated December 19, 2013 authored by Cherrie Regalado all but parrots lofty statements made by the then Yellow government on their infrastructure development record — three years before then President Noynoy Aquino’s term ended. Regalado “reported” on “a press briefing on Thursday, December 19” where then Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Executive Director Cosette Canilao claimed that “the [Aquino] government is confident that it can complete 7 projects and sign at least 8 more before President Benigno Aquino III’s term ends by mid-2016.”

“We have is a list of what we have to accomplish by end of 2016. We have a robust pipeline of projects. We will have 15 PPP contracts signed including the 7 completed projects, and 10 passed on to the private sector for O&M. I think it’s achievable,” Canilao noted.

In the three years that followed publication of this Rappler “report”, many of these projects were cancelled including that of the Philippine Orthopedic Center which was to be privatized. It didn’t push through after intense opposition to the proposal given it is the only public hospital specializing in orthopedics. Regalado, to her credit, even then called out ominous signs that this failure to deliver would come to pass…

The PPP program was launched by the Aquino administration in 2010 to create viable infrastructure needed to support the government’s goal of achieving inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

That year, the administration announced a target of 10 projects. These included Light Railway Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT) extension, new airports and terminals in Bohol, Pampanga, Laguindingan, Puerto Princesa and Daraga, a road linking North and South Luzon Expressways, and a water supply project in Manila.

But the government has so far awarded only five projects since 2010. These include:

PPP School Infrastructure Phase 1
PPP for School Infrastructure Phase 2
Modernization of Philippine Orthopedic Center
Daang Hari-SLEX Link Road
NAIA Expressway

The Aquino administration has been criticized for the slow implementation of the PPP program after bidding for several projects suffered delays. (READ: Aquino highlights PPP woes)

In the end, there was only one completed project which was the Daang Hari-SLEX Link Road. Now, here is PhilSTAR columnist Boo Chanco writing in his piece “Claiming credit” about “power mad bureaucrats” who “only want to claim credit for project completion”.

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Actually, for quite a while now, DPWH had been shamelessly claiming credit for Skyway Stage 3 and the last segment of TPLEX among others. The true story is that neither administration had much to do with these private sector projects. The only role of PNoy was to approve the project, and the only role of Duterte was to cut the inaugural ribbon.

There was an important role for DPWH in Stage 3, which was to provide right of way. In this regard, the DPWH under PNoy and under Duterte miserably failed. Ramon Ang of San Miguel got tired of waiting so he took over ROW negotiations and payments.

The issue which continues to haunt the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte is absorptive capacity. The problem lies in the bureaucracy and the lack of qualified technical personnel in both the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Transportation (DOTr). Most of our engineers are overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who are employed by governments undertaking massive infrastructure development in the Middle East. Just look at the pace of development in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Despite these difficulties the administration has been able to deliver on the much-needed rehabilitation and upgrading of ports and seaports, specially in the regions where they are most needed.

The critical North Rail project was cancelled by the Aquino administration because it was allegedly graft-ridden. The same is true with the Laguna Lake Dike and Circumferential Road project which was awarded to a Belgian company. The government paid P1 billion in damages to the contractor after the arbitration case was lost. There is also the common station for the Metro Light Rail system which was cancelled only because the then Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) Secretary Jun Abaya accommodated the Ayalas’ desire to have it transferred to Trinoma mall instead of SM North Edsa according to the original contract signed during the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Even if the common station linking MRT-3 with LRT-1 had been built, commuters would still be suffering because the maintenance contact of Sumitomo for MRT-3 was terminated arbitralily. By the time Aquino was to step down, the tracks and the rail cars had been improperly maintained to the point that the whole system was on the verge of breaking down. It became a common sight for commuters be walking on the tracks to get to the next station and exit for them to catch and bus and continue their trip to their destination.

The next administration will get the credit for the infrastructure projects not completed during the Duterte administration. The Malolos-Calamba commuter line, for one, will facilitate travel from north to south and vice-versa. It will also be connected to the light rail system at Tutuban Station which is why Ayala has bought the same from its owners. Ayala and Manny Pangilinan’s MVP Group were awarded the operations and maintenance contract for LRT-1 before Aquino stepped down. LRT-2 will be extended to the North Harbor. This is in line with the President’s commitment to a comfortable life for Filipinos. The operative question now is, did Filipinos experience comfort, in any form, during the Aquino administration?

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5 Comments on “Duterte reverses Aquino admin failures, makes good on infrastructure development promises”

  1. Yes but these projects will still be band aid solutions to the bad traffic condition if the provinces will not be given development and commercialization and if the provincial salary rates will not be same with NCR rates, these are what the government should really do. Why do they even need to centralize and focus the development and commercialization in NCR and give NCR higher salaries?

    1. I was wondering what happened to the plan of federalism. Ideally, instead of centralizing the tax payments to NCR, these should be spent on the respective provinces/cities.

      They say that doing so will enable the governors (or that province ruler) to embezzle from taxpayers’ money but then, how is it different from the current system?

      1. No wonder Philippines is still a 3rd world country, because many people got used to lazily made band-aid solutions such as the number coding scheme, it’s pure laziness, inefficient and ineffective way to reduce traffic, some even support lazy, inefficient and ineffective attempts to solve problems. To be honest, I would be fine with changing the system to either federalism or parliamentary. Those people who support the centralization of development and commercialization in NCR don’t realize that NCR isn’t designed to accommodate or hold the current number of population there. People are squeezed inside NCR all because the development and commercialization there is like Philippines is only comprised of NCR. The whole Philippines is far too big compared to NCR. I also heard from people that raising taxes for cars is also good because the traffic congestion is already bad in EDSA but the problem is they don’t do their research and they don’t think. Imposing heavy taxation on cars to reduce traffic is another lazy, inefficient and ineffective way to reduce traffic and the bigger problem is it’s too burdensome for car buyers, same with the number coding scheme, it’s also too burdensome. I really don’t understand why do they need to keep the current system and centralize the development and commercialization in NCR.

        People really need to think a lot and think clearly.

  2. The Philippines is still an underdeveloped country; inspite of claim of such development of the Aquino era…

    1. Philippines is a 3rd world country, I don’t know why many people get defensive about it and say that Philippines is a developing country, not a 3rd world country but I think the term “developing country” is just a “glorified” or “better” term for 3rd world country all because they get offended with the 1/2/3 classification.

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