The chairman of the House ways and means committee on Wednesday filed a bill granting President Rodrigo Duterte special powers to expedite the procurement and implementation of the 75 “Build, Build, Build” (BBB) flagship projects.
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In a press conference, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said instead of branding the infrastructure program as a “dismal failure”, Congress should do its part to help the administration in implementing these projects that would have a significant impact on people’s lives.
Salceda was reacting to Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon’s claim that only nine of the current administration’s 75 flagship infrastructure projects have started construction.
“Instead of announcing it a failure, I think Congress is duty-bound to give the President everything he needs because the duty of any administration is to prompt positive consequences in the lives of the ordinary people and the only way to do that in the current context or the current cycle of our economic development, ang pinaka-importante po ang infrastructure (through the important role of infrastructure),” Salceda said.
“’Pag titignan niyo po yung Competitiveness Index ng Pilipinas, napu-pull down po tayo sa lowest 50 percent simply because of infrastructure. ‘Pag ito po nasolve natin, sigurado po aangat tayo sa top 50 percent (If you look at the Competitiveness Index of the Philippines, we are pulled down to the lowest 50 percent simply because of infrastructure. If we are able to solve this, surely, we will rise to the top 50 percent),” Salceda added.
Salceda said out of the 75 of the original projects, 46 are being implemented as of 2019 mainly through the following: 1) General Appropriations Act-funded; 2) Official Development Assistance-funded with financial close, and 3) started in the past administrations.
In the explanatory note of the bill, Salceda described the BBB program as the largest and broadest infrastructure program ever undertaken by any Philippine government in the last 100 years, with a “gargantuan sum” of approximately PHP4.3 trillion going to 100 priority infrastructures.
Salceda said the program should be supported with emergency power to fast-track the implementation, as this would provide an inclusive growth translating to poverty reduction from 21.6 percent of the population in 2015 to 14 percent by 2022.
“The ‘Build, Build, Build’ program is a work in progress but could be faster by easing procurement rigidities and empowering right of way,” he said.
The poverty incidence in rural areas is also intended to decrease from 30 percent to 20 percent in the same period, while the unemployment rate will go down to 3 to 5 percent.
“The immediate implementation of the ‘Build, Build, Build’ program will complement meaningfully to the economic and social legislations that were already passed by Congress designed to accelerate the country’s growth rate, change the socio-economic structures, ensuring ecological integrity and towards achieving peace and security,” Salceda said.
The bill proposes to declare the immediate implementation of the flagship projects of the President as of “national importance”.
It shall also seek to authorize the President to exercise special powers for three years necessary and proper to effectively respond to multiple problems as a consequence in fast-tracking the implementation of the flagship project for the economic growth of the country.
Under the measure, it shall also designate the chairman of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority as the flagship manager.
The bill shall authorize special modes of procurement; install safeguards through the implementation of the executive order on freedom of information, as well as the creation of a congressional oversight committee; and provide an initial amount necessary for the implementation sourced from the current year’s budget of concerned agencies and from savings of the national government. (PNA)