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
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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