The Government spent substantially more on infrastructure in September, the Budget department said on Monday, but year to date the picture remains one of underspending relative to targets.
State infrastructure expenditures and other capital outlays surged by 50 percent at P28.8 billion from P19.2 billion a year earlier, a disbursement report showed, bringing the year-to-date tally to P243 billion—also higher at 24.3 percent compared with the P195.4 billion recorded in the comparable nine-month period.
“The implementation of convergence programs such as the Basic Educational Facilities of the Department of Education, the construction of roads to Department of Tourism-identified tourist destinations by the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways), and the rehabilitation and repair of some roads and bridges by the latter were the main reasons for the higher capital spending this month,” the Budget department said.
The increase in infrastructure spending was also driven by the capital outlay requirements of state universities and colleges, the department said, noting that for example, some P700 million was released to the University of the Philippines to finance the modernization/upgrade of equipment at the Philippine General Hospital.
Despite this, the nine-month infrastructure spending of P243 billion was 16 percent short of the P289-billion target expenditure for the period.
“[T]he underspending in infrastructure expenditures was mainly on account of [the]low level of obligations for some big capital programs/projects which encountered procurement delays or difficulties, such as the Health Facilities Enhancement Program of the DOH (Department of Health), the purchase of weather forecasting equipment of the DOST-PAGASA (Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) and [the]Automated Election System (AES) of the Comelec (Commission on Elections),” the Budget department said.
It claimed that agencies were finalizing the designs, details and other specifications of the equipment or facilities that need to be procured. In the case of the Comelec, some of the AES components were said to have been contracted out as of the third quarter, with payments to start in the fourth quarter.
Bernardo Villegas, director for Research and Communications at University of Asia and the Pacific, said the continued underspending was making it difficult to address the country’s infrastructure backlog.
“It depends now on how the DPWH can actually accelerate infrastructure spending,” he said.