By Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson, Reporter
THE NATIONAL Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) is finalizing a list of 3,700 priority infrastructure projects worth P15 trillion that will be submitted to President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. for approval.
“This week, the NEDA Board is meeting to finalize the list we recommend to the President. That list is a big number of projects, tentatively, 3,700 projects worth P15 trillion,” NEDA Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan told reporters on Thursday.
The list will be presented to Mr. Marcos on March 9 for his approval.
Mr. Balisacan said these infrastructure projects will be developed over the medium term, and may spill over to the next administration.
“We’ll come up with a shorter list for the flagship program. These have to be very consistent and relevant to the Philippine Development Plan (PDP), those are the ones that will address the constraints to growth and employment generation as identified in the PDP,” he said.
The NEDA Secretary said not all of these projects will be implemented right away, adding it will depend on the Philippines’ fiscal position and the private sector’s interest.
Out of the 3,700 proposed projects, 98 will be public-private partnership (PPP) projects worth P3.044 trillion. This consists of 73 national projects worth P2.914 trillion and 25 local projects worth P130 billion.
Projects that are underdoing studies, as well as those with no finalized costs, are not included on the NEDA’s list.
Nearly half or 45 of the PPP projects are related to transport, while 14 are road projects, and 11 involve property development. Other PPP projects include water and sanitation (8), health (6), information and communications technology (5), tourism (3), solid waste management (3), and energy (3).
As of December, the government has awarded 210 projects with a total estimated cost of P2.335 trillion.
Mr. Balisacan said there is a need for “massive infusion of capital” from the private sector to fund these infrastructure projects.
“Tapping private capital is the way to go partly because the government has no money. We have limited resources and a lot of policy responses to the pandemic have raised the level of debt. While some say that we have space, personally, I don’t think so. We’re a country with not a good history of sustained economic development,” he added.
The government is planning to spend 5-6% of gross domestic product (GDP) annually on infrastructure.
As of end-2022, the National Government’s outstanding debt stood at P13.42 trillion, representing 60.9% of GDP.
BENEFITS OF RCEPMeanwhile, Mr. Balisacan said the Philippines will benefit from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal if it can address existing gaps that hinder foreign investments.
“The answer is clear: we will gain. How much we gain depends on what else we will do to improve the investment climate in the country. We have to do much more than ratifying a trade agreement. This RCEP is an additional lever but not sufficient to create those quality jobs, we have to complement that to those things we identified in the PDP,” he said.
Mr. Balisacan said the government has to address infrastructure backlogs, regulatory bottlenecks, ease of doing businesses, learning poverty, and quality of education, among others.
“The benefits from RCEP are not short term, they’re quite long term, yet we cannot afford to be left out. Because the truth is, if we don’t shape up, investors are not only looking at the Philippines, they’re looking at other countries out there,” he said.
The Senate on Tuesday approved the Philippines’ membership in RCEP, which is described as the world’s largest trade deal.
Mr. Balisacan said the RCEP will put more pressure on the government to accelerate the development of the agriculture sector.
“With or without RCEP, those problems are there. Now that you have opened up another window for growth, to maximize the benefits from this opportunity, you have to speed up the development of the sector,” he said.
Agricultural stakeholders have warned that the sector will suffer once the Philippines joins RCEP, due to the lack of safety nets and government support.