Duterte administration is spending a whopping P860.7 billion, equivalent to about 5.4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), on large-scale infrastructure projects next year in keeping with its commitment to disperse growth and create enough jobs for Filipinos, especially in the countryside.
Finance Undersecretary Antonette Tionko said this amount is about P100 billion more than the 2016 outlay of P756.4 billion.
Of the 2017 budget for infrastructure, the Investment Coordinating Committee (ICC) has earmarked P355.7 billion to improve and build road networks, flood control systems, seaports, airports, school buildings, hospitals and health centers, and irrigation systems, Tionko said in a statement over the weekend.
“The projects to be conceptualized from this initiative would then be considered for inclusion in the Philippine Development Plan for 2017 to 2022, which is now being consolidated by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA,” Tionko said at the General Membership Meeting of the Davao Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (DCCI).
“Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, who also sits as chair of the ICC, has given instructions to scale up and prioritize the development of infrastructure projects that would have an impact on areas outside ‘Mega Manila’. These areas of focus include the Cordillera Autonomous Region, Eastern Visayas and Mindanao, particularly the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM,” added Tionko, who heads the Revenue Operations Group of the Department of Finance (DOF).
In Mindanao, Tionko said these planned big-ticket infrastructure projects include the 2,000-kilometer Mindanao Railway Project, modernization of the Davao Sasa Port, expansion of the Francisco Bagoy (Davao) International Airport, development of the Laguindingan Airport, Mindanao Logistics Infrastructure Network, and the Rural Road Development Program.
The Duterte Administration, she said, has initially placed a premium on the improvement of the island-wide transportation infrastructure network to facilitate a faster, safer, more convenient and efficient transport of people and goods going in and out of Mindanao.
“At the same time, these investments are designed to be future-proof to avoid the horrendous traffic jams and airport congestion our brothers and sisters are experiencing almost daily in Metro Manila and other highly urbanized areas in the country,” Tionko noted.
“Of course, among the main concerns for Mindanao has always been the peace and order situation in parts of the island. But we are confident that this shall soon be addressed by the government, stakeholders, and concerned parties. When that happens, we expect investments in Mindanao to pick up significantly more in the coming years,” she said.
Rural road development
The Rural Road Development Program, which is to be implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways, will speed up the construction and upgrade of local access roads to tourism destinations, roll-on, roll-off (RORO) ports and airports, as well as farm-to-market roads under the watch of the Department of Agriculture.
Tionko said the first phase of the Mindanao Railway Project, which starts from Davao heading to the eastern part of Mindanao toward Cagayan de Oro City, is expected to commence next year.
The Sasa Port will be developed into a modern, international-standard container terminal, while the Davao International Airport will be expanded by doubling the capacity of the passenger terminal and cargo capacity to accommodate the fast-growing number of visitors to southern Mindanao, she said.
Meanwhile, the Department of Transportation is currently reviewing the development of the Laguindingan Airport, which serves as the main airport of the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan in northern Mindanao, through the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program.
The government, Tionko said, has raised the initial allocation for the Mindanao Logistics Infrastructure Network from P19.5 billion to P31.5 billion in 2017, to speed up the development of an integrated and seamless transport system that will be supported by inter-island linkage projects.
The infra network aims to facilitate travel across the regional growth corridors in the island, she said.
“These projects, and those that will be added to this list, are worthwhile endeavors that should help provide opportunities and uplift the lives of our people here in Mindanao once they come into fruition,” Tionko said.
Tionko said the goal of the Duterte administration in implementing these Mindanao initiatives and other large-scale infrastructure projects outside Mega Manila is to transform the country’s vibrant economy into a truly inclusive one.
This inclusive growth agenda involves dispersing growth nationwide, lifting 1.5 million Filipinos from poverty each year and creating enough jobs for all, Tionko said.
The Duterte administration also plans to invest heavily in human capital development and social protection programs for the poorest households in the country, to make the benefits of inclusive growth reach every Filipino, she added.
Tionko also briefed Davao-based business leaders on the initial projects of the DOF under Dominguez, particularly the Department’s tax reform and anti-red tape initiatives.
‘From our end at the Department of Finance, we have already implemented a number of anti-red tape measures that have sped up the processing and clearance of pertinent permits and documentary requirements for businesses,” Tionko said.
She added: “As you may all be aware of by now, we have also forwarded our proposed tax reform package to Congress which will lower the tax rates for those in the lower tier of the pay scale but broaden the tax base.
The simplified tax system, once approved, will ensure consistent revenue generation on a par, if not better, than those being implemented by our peers in the region.”
“These are but some of the measures we have implemented in the few months that the Administration has been in office. Expect this list to grow more as the day goes by,” Tionko said.