DOTr Sec. Arthur Tugade: Infra Spending Accelerated Under ‘Build, Build, Build’ Project

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) belied Senate Minority Leader Frank Drilon’s claim that the “Build, Build, Build” (BBB) program was a “dismal failure” and cited the department’s general increase in obligation and disbursement rates to prove accelerated spending in infrastructures.

In a statement, the agency said their obligation rate has reached 89.85 percent in 2018, a far cry from 58.66 percent in 2014, 55.99 percent in 2015, 66.96 percent in 2016, and 83.11 percent in 2017 — an increase of about 30 percent in the last five years.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) defined obligation as liabilities legally incurred and to be paid by the government immediately or in the future.

The DOTr further said its disbursement rate reached 39.98 percent in 2018, from 34.54 percent in 2014, 27.73 percent in 2015, 41.58 percent in 2016, and 32.55 percent in 2017– increase of just over 5 percent in the last five years.

The DBM defined disbursement as the actual withdrawal of cash from the Bureau of Treasury due to encashment of checks issued by government agencies and payment of budgetary obligations.

The DOTr rejected claims of underspending by government agencies under the BBB program, saying that various requirements of projects must first be addressed before funds are disbursed for a project.

“A good example of which is the Bohol Panglao International Airport, whose funds are still being disbursed due to progress billings up to this time, although the project has been completed and inaugurated last year,” the statement read.

The DOTr also said it was “grossly unfair” to assess the success of the BBB program by exclusively looking at the implementation of “flagship” infrastructure projects since many of these require immense pre-construction work such as right-of-way acquisition and community resettlement.

“While an initial number of these projects were considered as “flagship”, it should be noted that thousands of others, whose impact to local communities leaves very little doubt of their significance and value, have also been implemented under the BBB program,” it added.

To further prove the accomplishment of the BBB program, the department cited several completed and ongoing infrastructure projects under DOTr.

For airports, the DOTr said 133 projects are ongoing while 64 have been completed and these include the Sangley Airport in Cavite which had operational dry run last month, the upgrade of Lal-Lo International Airport’s runway which allowed the airport to receive its first international commercial flight in 2018, the Tacloban Airport’s expanded terminal building, among many others.

For railways, the DOTr said six projects are ongoing construction plus one rehabilitation project.

These projects include the Metro Manila Subway which broke ground in February, the MRT-7 which is now 50 percent complete, Common Station for various rail services in Metro Manila which is also 50 percent complete, among others.

Other projects include the country’s first ‘land port,’ the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange, 243 completed seaport projects, and another 136 port projects ongoing.

The same statement said that “while not all flagship projects may be completed by 2022, we are certain that we can get the ball rolling for all”.

In an interviewy, Transportation Assistant Secretary for Communications and Commuter Affairs Goddes Hope Libiran said the list of 75 key infrastructure projects mentioned by Drilon was submitted back at the beginning of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s term and does not reflect the evolving needs of the country.

On Tuesday, Drilon said the BBB project was a “dismal failure” with only nine out of 75 flagship projects under construction halfway into Duterte’s term during plenary deliberations on the proposed 2020 budget. (PNA)
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