Drilon calls Build, Build, Build a 'dismal failure'

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon slammed the Build, Build, Build infrastructure program of the Duterte administration, calling it a "dismal failure" months after he already called out its "terrible performance."

As the Senate kicked off the budget interpellations at the plenary on Tuesday, November 12, Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, who defended the budget of the National Economic and Development Authority(NEDA), answered questions about the infrastructure program.

"The NEDA has been issuing [statements] and Secretary [Ernesto] Pernia has been mentioning that they are going to revise the 75 [projects] kasi nakita nila na hindi mai-roll out 'yung iba, so nire-revise nila for more doable, more shovel-ready projects," Angara told the plenary.

(The NEDA has been issuing [statements] and Secretary Pernia has been mentioning that they are going to revise the 75 [projects] because they saw that some cannot be rolled out, so they revise it for more doable, more shovel-ready projects.)

As of October 15, only two projects have been completed out of the original target of 75 projects, while 9 are ongoing construction.

The NEDA has yet to release an official list of the revised 100 flagship projects after Pernia disclosed to Rappler in an exclusive interview that they are scrapping some of the big-ticket projects. (WATCH: Rappler Talk: Ernesto Pernia on Ambisyon Natin 2040)

Drilon then pointed out the revised list means nothing if the projects have yet to start.

"We can have a thousand projects, that's all theoretical. I'm talking how the projects have actually started in terms of construction.… If it is actual construction with actual disbursements, that would propel our economy," Drilon said.

Angara then said that at least 12 projects would be completed by next year, 17 projects by 2021, 26 projects by 2022, and the rest beyond the Duterte administration. 

Because the list wasn't available, interpellations were suspended. NEDA clarified later on Tuesday that the list would have to come from Vince Dizon, the presidential assistant for flagship projects and concurrent head of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority.

In a media interview, Drilon expressed dismay over the program. 

"It is sad to say that the Build, Build, Build program of the administration is a dismal failure," Drilon said. "We only have two years and a half left in this administration, I don’t think any substantial progress insofar as that program is concerned will be achieved. I repeat, the execution is simply dismal."

Months earlier, Drilon had already criticized the "terrible performance" of the program when NEDA faced the Senate during its budget interpellations at the committee level.

In 2017, the NEDA had identified 75 projects under the Build, Build, Build program considered as "high-impact." These projects are under the public works, transportation, energy, and agriculture departments. 

But the Commission on Audit had flagged in its latest report slow disbursments and delayed implementation of projects at the departments implementing the flagship infrastructure projects.

In its 2018 report, the COA said that there is a total of P118.4 billion worth of delayed and unimplemented projects under the Department of Public Works and Highways. COA said 157 of these delayed projects have incurred work slippages that exceeded 10%, resulting in a combined cost of P5.62 billion.

Meanwhile, COA said that the Department of Transportation has a low disbursement rate, with a total of P48.36 billion undisbursed funds to 175 locally-funded and 11 foreign-assisted projects. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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