Finance Assistant Secretary Antonio Lambino II has said in a briefing with international investors at the Clark Freeport that the level of infrastructure investments the government has put thus far into President Duterte's centerpiece program "Build, Build, Build" is “historically unprecedented, highly sustainable and fiscally responsible, and supports our overarching goal of accelerating poverty reduction.”
“The investments in infrastructure that we are making are unlike any infrastructure program in our country’s economic history. In 2018 alone, we spent P889 billion on infrastructure modernization," Lambino told investors in dismissing baseless criticism lately on the progress of the Duterte administration's infrastructure development program.
"That level of state investment is equivalent to more than 5 percent of GDP (gross national product), which has been the target ratio of many administrations in the past. To put things in perspective, the average annual infrastructure spending-to-GDP ratio over the past 50 years is only 2.5 percent,” he said.
“While much has already been said by the Departments of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and of Transportation (DOTr) and by the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) on the status of specific projects, I would just like to reiterate that 'Build, Build, Build' goes beyond the list of big ticket projects," he said. "It is also about some 20,000 small- and medium-sized projects that are either ongoing or already completed and would dramatically improve the quality of life of Filipino families."
Lambino pointed out that "Build, Build, Build" comprises both the flagship projects, whose list was recently expanded from 75 to 100, and the tens of thousands of relatively smaller projects across the country ranging from roads, airports
and seaports to classrooms, evacuation centers and flood control works.
Citing a recent report by DPWH Secretary Mark Villar, Lambino said a total of 9,845 kilometers (km) of roads, 2,709 bridges, 4,536 flood control projects, 82 evacuation centers and 71,803 classrooms have already been completed under "Build, Build, Build" since June 2016.
The DOTr and its attached agencies have completed 64 airport projects under the Duterte administration, with 133 more ongoing. There are six railway projects being constructed and one undergoing rehabilitation. 243 commercial and social or tourism seaport projects have been completed, while 136 are ongoing.
Lambino said, “We go around to take a look at these projects on the ground, and we do see that 'Build, Build, Build' is making a difference in people’s lives, especially in the provinces.”
Citing too a report by Presidential Adviser on Flagship Projects Vivencio Dizon, Lambino said a slew of big-ticket projects under 'Build, Build, Build' have already been completed by DPWH and DOTr.
These include the NLEX Harbor Link Segment 10, Governor Miranda Bridge in Tagum City, Laguna Lake Highway, Pigalo Bridge in Isabela, Cagayan, TPLEx-Pozorrubio, and Bohol-Panglao International Airport, the Cagayan de Oro Passenger Terminal, the Cavite Barge Terminal and the Ormoc Airport.
“The Duterte administration will continue to spend heavily on infrastructure, as it is the kind of state investment with the highest multiplier effects on the economy and provides the best returns to our people," he said.
Lambino said the state economic team's target is to further ramp up infrastructure spending from the already unmatched 5 percent of GDP in 2018 to around 7 percent of GDP by 2022, with the ultimate goal of making all law-abiding Filipinos benefit from sustained, high economic growth .
"We are also confident that funding for infrastructure investments will be sustainable for the rest of the Duterte presidency as we are collecting revenues efficiently from the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP), borrowing responsibly here and abroad, and securing Official Development Assistance (ODA) from our multilateral and bilateral development partners overseas,” Lambino said.
The infrastructure buildup is financed primarily through an increase in tax collections supported by the passage of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law--the first package under the CTRP--and inexpensive, long-tenor financing from multilateral development partners such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and bilateral partners including Japan, China and South Korea, he said.
Proof of the strong macroeconomic fundamentals and prudent fiscal discipline observed by the President's economic team, Lambino said that even with ever increasing infrastructure outlays, the debt-to-GDP ratio--or the size of borrowings relative to the size of the growing Philippine economy--is still projected to decline from 41.85 percent in 2018 to 39.03 percent in 2022.
Since the start of the Duterte administration, US$8.47 billion-worth of external financing has been secured, all at concessional interest rates and with very long tenors to fund 'Build, Build, Build,' he said.
For financial sustainability, he said the administration’s economic team ensures that foreign-financed projects meet the threshold economic rate of return requirement of the Cabinet-level Investment Coordination Committee (ICC), and have solid feasibility studies to back these up.