Exemption of 748 projects from Comelec ban sought
The economic team has asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to exempt at least 145 ongoing and new infrastructure projects from the spending ban ahead of the May 13 midterm polls.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno in a Feb. 18 letter to Comelec Chair Sheriff Abas also sought the exemption of 603 other projects to be rolled out by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), whose fiscal year 2019 investment targets were part of the updated 2017-2022 Public Investment Program and included in the preparation of the 2019 national budget.
Under the Comelec’s Resolution No. 10429, the release and disbursement of public funds as well as the construction and delivery of materials for public works are prohibited between March 29 and May 12.
“The exemption will facilitate implementation and ensure that there are no delays and disruption of these national priority projects,” the economic managers said.
The economic team said this would allow timely implementation of the Duterte administration’s ambitious “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program, which is aimed at ushering in “the golden age of infrastructure” in the Philippines by 2022.
Through Build, Build, Build, the government targets to raise the share of infrastructure expenditures to the gross domestic product to 6.9 percent in 2022 from 4.4 percent in 2017.
The 145 programs and projects included priority ongoing and new infrastructure projects to be implemented by national government agencies, government corporations, the Constitutional Fiscal Autonomy Group and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, according to the economic team.
These key infrastructure projects were earlier submitted by implementing agencies to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) as these were included in the proposed 3.757-trillion 2019 national budget.
However, the DBM said the Feb. 18 request letter was not yet final and was an “initial request for approval of the Comelec.”
Diokno told a press conference on Wednesday that the DPWH also made an earlier separate request to exempt the projects it was supposed to roll out at the start of the year.
As for foreign-funded programs and projects, these were already exempted from the spending ban under Comelec rules.
As such, the implementation of 384 ongoing projects financed by official development assistance will be unaffected by the election ban.
Pernia earlier told the Inquirer that he was optimistic that “getting exemptions for major/critical projects won’t be a steep hurdle.”
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