(NOVEMBER 12, 2019) – The administration of President Rodrigo Duterte struck back at the political opposition after a minority lawmaker described the government’s ambitious flagship “Build, Build, Build” program a dismal failure.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo, who is also the chief presidential legal counsel, said on Tuesday the comments on the infrastructure program were baseless.
Senator Franklin Drilon came up with the conclusion after the infrastructure program had only started about 12 percent of the multi-billion infrastructure projects.
At the start of the plenary session on the 2020 national budget, the administration presented data showing only nine out of 75 big-ticket projects under the ambitious program had begun construction.
But Panelo defended the administration’s achievements, saying it’s better than what the previous administration had done.
“Ito naman si Senator Frank, my fraternity ka-batch brod. Senator Frank, look at the administration you previously belonged–six years, not a single infrastructure na nagawa,” Panelo told reporters in his regular press briefing. “Malayong-malayo sa dami.”
The nine projects which the government reported to have started were the construction of the Binondo bridge, rehabilitation of the Estrella-Pantaleon bridge, expansion of the Clark International Airport, the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project, as well as other road projects in Clark.
Most of these projects were funded by the Chinese government, particularly the two bridges that span the Pasig River.
During the Senate deliberations, Senate Finance Committee chairperson Sonny Angara said data given to him by economic managers showed 12 projects are expected to be done by 2020, 17 by 2021, 26 by 2022, and 43 more beyond 2022. Duterte’s term ends after June 2022.
“It’s sad to say that the Build, Build, Build program of the administration is a dismal failure,” Drilon said in an interview. “The execution is simply dismal.”
The senator also blamed the Departments of Public Works and Highways and Transportation for being slow in disbursement of funds for the projects, which delays the actual construction.
Panelo, in reply, rhetorically asked Drilon to be the DPWH secretary so he can understand the operations.
A Commission on Audit report showed the DPWH only released 39.7 percent of their 2018 budget.
“Mabagal siguro dahil maingat like for instance kung mayroon kang isang project na hindi mo maumpisahan dahil walang right-of-way, bakit ka magre-release ng funds?” Panelo said. “The fact remains, maraming proejcts.”
The spokesman then read a list of infrastructure projects, which included the LRT-1 Baclaran-Cavite extension, MRT rehabilitation which is expected to be completed by July 2021, Metro Manila Subway, and the MRT common station which connects the MRT-3, MRT-7, LRT-1, and the Metro Manila Subway.
Also included was the LRT-2 east extension which Panelo said is 64.9 percent complete as of August 2019.
The 75 flagship projects are worth a total of at least P2.4 trillion. The Build, Build, Build program was launched in 2017 aimed at ushering in a “golden age of infrastructure” in the country.