What now Build Build Build?

By: Fernando Fajardo November 22,2018 - 09:27 PM

By end of last year, however, none of the 55 flagship projects had taken off.

After the visit of President Duterte to Beijing, the government immediately announced that China has pledged $24 billion to finance the country’s need for more infrastructure.

Later, it clarified that China’s pledge were meant for $9 billion in loans for 40 G2G projects and $15 billion for 27 proposed B2B projects in form of direct investments of China companies in partnership with Philippine companies.

Besides these pledges, there was also an offer of small gifts or grants of $91 million for two bridges along Pasig River, anti-illegal drugs and security cooperation, and for Surigao earthquake victims.

As originally conceived the infrastructure program, now called Build Build Build, consisted of 55 flagships projects.

This requires a staggering P1.579 trillion in total costs with 22 projects that still had no project cost estimates.

Among these projects are the proposed Cebu-Bohol Bridge, Cebu-Negros Link, Bohol-Leyte Link, Panay-Guimaras-Negros Link, Camarines-Catanduanes Link, Mindoro-Batangas Link, Luzon-Samar Link, and Leyte-Surigao Link.

By end of last year, however, none of the 55 flagship projects had taken off.

Many of them do not even have feasibility studies yet or still asking for funds for the study.

Even now, some of the 29 agreements listed during the recent visit of Xi still included proposals for the conduct of feasibility studies, like that of the proposed Guimaras to Iloilo and Negros Bridge and the Davao Expressway Project.

Early this year, the Department of Finance ((DOF) has assured us of the financial sustainability of the ambitious “Build, Build, Build” program.

This time it talked of rolling out 75 flagship projects with a combined total of $36 billion in investments.

This was announced by DOF Undersecretary Grace Karen Singson in the First Global Infrastructure Forum held at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza.

Surprisingly, Singson did not talk of China’s loan to fund the Build Build Build projects but of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act (TRAIN) that expects to collect a steady revenue flow for the government totaling P786 billion over the medium term.

This, along with prudent fiscal management and declining debt service payments, would supposedly make the ambitious infrastructure buildup financially feasible.

Indeed, the government justified the TRAIN by the intent to earmark 70 percent of it’s incremental revenues for infrastructure.

The 75 flagship projects, according to Singson, consist of 6 airports, 9 railways, 3 bus rapid transits, 32 roads and bridges, and 4 seaports.

It also includes four energy facilities that will ensure stable power supply at lower prices, 10 water resource projects, as well as irrigation systems that will raise agricultural output, and five flood control facilities that will help protect vulnerable communities and boost their resilience against the impact of climate change.

In addition, three redevelopment programs will also be undertaken to deliver sustainable solutions to meet the needs of urban populations.

What of the recent Manila visit of Premier Xi?

We heard that President Duterte and Premier Xi witnessed the signing of 29 agreements that included one for the joint exploration of oil in the WPS.

The joint exploration deal is a different matter from the rest of the agreements.

This to me is more critical as it has always been the position of China that before any negotiation or agreement that China will sign with respect to the exploitation of the wealth of the SCS or WPS, the other party must recognize first the legitimate claim of China over the disputed sea.

Did we?

As for the rest of the signed agreements, based on the published list alone, they are mostly MOUs again, not loan agreements yet.

What now BBB?

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