Drilon hits 'terrible' Build, Build, Build performance

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon called the performance of the Build, Build, Build infrastructure program "terrible," as only 12% of the flagship projects have construction underway.

At the Senate briefing on the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget on Thursday, August 29, Drilon asked the economic managers if it were true that only 9 out of the 75 flagship infrastructure projects have begun construction. (MAP: Build, Build, Build)

As Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia answered in the affirmative, Drilon said, "This is a terrible performance."

In 2017, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) had identified high-priority projects under the Build, Build, Build program considered as "high-impact." These projects are under the public works, transportation, energy, and agriculture departments.

As of April 30, only two of the flagship infrastructure projects have been completed: the improvements along the Pasig River from Delpan Bridge to Napindan Channel and the selective dredging of the Pulangi River, which cost P1 billion and P244.88 million, respectively.

At the hearing, Drilon also took into account the delay in the passage of the 2019 national budget, which had led to a reenacted budget. This year's budget was only passed in April, delaying the rollout of new infrastructure projects, coupled by the election ban on public works.

Pernia said there were catch-up measures planned in the 1st quarter of 2019 so that projects would be executed swiftly.

"Yes, we had several meetings to do a catch-up program, principally with the public works, transportation, agriculture, education [departments]. We asked them to come up with specific programs," Pernia said.

But when the budget was approved, the election ban came in place.

NEDA submitted a list of infrastructure projects in February and asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to exempt these from the election ban. But Pernia said the Comelec replied March 29 – just as the ban started – asking for more documents.

"We were not exempted. Answering our request for exemption on March 29, they (Comelec) asked for more documents [and the] description of the projects," Pernia said.

Drilon asked NEDA to submit the list to the Senate so lawmakers could "confront" the Comelec when the poll body faces the chamber for its own 2020 budget hearing.

"This is inconsistent [with] the efficiency of executing these projects. We will confront Comelec so that this will not happen again," Drilon said. – 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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