Gov’t tweaks terms of 4 big infra projects
Economic managers on Friday approved tweaks to four major projects as the government moves to fast-track its infrastructure buildup program after delays caused by the budget impasse at the start of the year.
Approved during the National Economic and Development Authority’s (Neda) Investment Coordination Committee-Cabinet Committee meeting was the proposed change in project cost and scope of works as well as extension of loan validity and implementation duration of the National Irrigation Administration’s National Irrigation Sector Rehabilitation and Improvement Project.
Also approved was the request of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to extend by three years and nine-and-a-half months the implementation of the first phase of the Central Luzon Link Expressway (CLLEx) project.
The DPWH also sought to extend the validity of the loan obtained for CLLEx by three years.
The 30-kilometer CLLEx phase one runs between Tarlac province and Cabanatuan City in Nueva Ecija.
Also approved was request of the Department of Energy for a 24-month extension of the implementation and validity of grant for the Access to Sustainable Energy Programme as well as the reallocation of the grant proceeds.
The interagency body also discussed the Department of Health-led Development Objective Assistance Agreement: Improved Health for Underserved Filipinos project.
In the first quarter, government spending on infrastructure and other capital outlays increased 13.4 percent to P178.1 billion from P157.1 billion a year ago “largely due to payment of prior years’ accounts payables for completed infrastructure projects,” the Department of Budget and Management said in an earlier report.
But during the month of March alone, public infrastructure expenditures declined 5.7 percent year-on-year to P59.7 billion as agencies such as the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of Education “were unable to implement new capital outlay projects such as the construction of police stations, purchase of equipment under the capability enhancement program of the DILG, and repair and rehabilitation of school buildings due to limitations in release of funds under the reenacted budget.”
Last week, the government reported that gross domestic product (GDP) growth fell to a four-year low of 5.6 percent in the first quarter mainly due to slower public investments, especially on infrastructure, as a result of the impasse on the P3.7-trillion 2019 national budget.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and Neda chief Ernesto Pernia earlier blamed the implementation of the reenacted 2018 budget at the start of the year for the sharp slowdown in first-quarter GDP expansion.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, who heads the Duterte administration’s economic team, had said the government underspent more than P1 billion on public goods and services daily when it operated under a reenacted budget.
Following squabbles between legislators for pork funds, it was only on April 15 that President Duterte finally signed the 2019 appropriations, after he vetoed P95.3 billion in projects that were not included in his administration’s priorities.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.