House eyes P650 billion expanded BBB projects
The House of Representatives is looking into expanding the Duterte administration’s Build Build Build (BBB) program by rolling out P650-billion infrastructure projects in the next three years under the proposed economic recovery plan.
Under the Philippine Economic Recovery Bill, the sub-committee on economic stimulus program has proposed the expansion of the BBB through additional projects in the national budget for 2021, 2022 and 2023.
The proposed measure, titled Philippine Economic Recovery Act (PERA), specifically seeks building of additional infrastructure for health, education, entertainment and food sectors. The proponents – Albay Rep. Joey Salceda and Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo - proposed new health facilities for pandemic emergencies and for implementation of the Universal Health Care law.
The economist – lawmakers also pushed for the creation of “School for the Future” facilities that would fit the requirements for the “new normal” as a result of the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 pandemic. They likewise cited the need to build infrastructure to ensure food security and public nutrition.
Lastly, the PERA bill proposed the building of facilities for creative industries similar to the K-Culture in the Republic of Korea that could boost the country’s tourism industry.
Salceda explained that the speedy implementation of the BBB program would serve as a “multiplier” that could pump prime the economy and help the nation recover from the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.
But he said there might be a need to grant President Duterte with emergency power to remove “roadblocks” to projects, such as right-of-way issues.
House leaders earlier agreed to the need to expedite the BBB as they rejected proposals to give up big-ticket infrastructure projects and just realign funds to measures addressing the current health crisis.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) recently announced that around P30 billion from BBB projects was reallocated to critical areas to help government in its fight against the pandemic.
But DPWH Secretary Mark Villar assured that no major flagship projects would be affected by the measure as the amount is “not that big,” but he admitted that their completion could be delayed.
For this year the DPWH has a budget of P580.89 billion, with about one-third or P203.8 billion to be used for its network development and bridge programs.
Part of its funds for 2020 is the “special road fund” worth P15.57 billion, which is earmarked solely for the construction, upgrading, and repair of roads, bridges and drainages.
The PERA bill proposes a P613-billion stimulus package to provide assistance to businesses and workers affected by the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine.
The House plenary is set to tackle the measure when it resumes session on May 4.