Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Tuesday underscored the need to prioritize infrastructure projects that will create more job opportunities and help the people adapt, innovate, and manage the new normal amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Cayetano said the government’s “Build, Build, Build” program should be converted into a “Build Back Better” program, which will focus on infrastructure spending for health, education, agriculture, local roads and livelihood, information technology and tourism sectors.
“It is not enough to say we will rebuild our lives, but we need to strive on how we can build back better,” he said.
Cayetano cited a National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) report called “We Recover as One”, which recommended the realignment of expenditure priorities in 2020 and 2021.
The report also suggested a review of the list of “Build, Build, Build” projects to give priority to crucial and shovel-ready projects, provide more space for relevant health-related expenditures, and improve the country’s digital infrastructure.
“Budget reprioritization may be needed to fund the programs, activities, and projects (PAPs) that are recommended to be implemented in 2020. PAPs that are to be implemented in 2021 will need to be included in the 2021 National Expenditure Program,” the report said.
It cited the need to ensure funding for the construction and enhancement of logistics and road infrastructure, such as road and transport projects under the “Build, Build, Build” program, wholesale food terminals and trading centers, warehouses, cold storage, mobile storage, and cold chain and refrigeration facilities.
Cayetano suggested strengthening digital infrastructure to make internet connectivity more accessible and affordable for small entrepreneurs moving towards e-commerce and students engaged in online learning.
He also noted that the government should move toward innovation and automation to make it more responsive during disasters.
The House of Representatives has approved on third reading House Bill No. 6920 or the proposed Covid-19 Unemployment Reduction Economic Stimulus (CURES) Act of 2020.
The bill, primarily authored by Cayetano, provides for a PHP1.5-trillion fund to be divided in a period of three years.
The measure seeks to fund projects under the HEAL IT areas which include: health, education, agriculture, local roads, infrastructure, livelihood, information and communication technology, and tourism.
“We hope to create sustainable jobs that will provide employment and promote inclusive growth, especially in the rural areas affected by the pandemic,” he said. (PNA)