PH optimistic on Japan infra partnerships

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The Philippines is looking forward to more fruitful partnerships with Japan on infrastructure developments, especially for Davao City as it deals with the challenges of urbanization, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said.

In a speech during the Philippine economic forum in Japan on Wednesday, Pernia expressed optimism over the two countries’ strengthening relations.

“We look forward to more fruitful partnerships and successes with our friends from Japan in the conduct of the Davao city infrastructure development plan and capacity bldg project, for example,” Pernia said.

Focus on high-impact projects


Before leaving for Japan early this week, President Rodrigo Duterte said he would seek greater cooperation in infrastructure development, particularly high-quality modern transportation.

“I shall seek the strengthening of this role through more high-impact projects that will benefit our nation,” the President said, adding that Mindanao would be a central focus of his three-day Japanese visit.

Earlier this year, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said it had entered discussions with the Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Kazuhide Ishikawa and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) chief representative Susumu Ito on the Davao City Infrastructure Development Plan and Capacity Building Project.

NEDA said the projects would enable the Davao City government to respond to the challenges of urbanization resulting from increased economic activity in the city.

Pernia, who is concurrently NEDA director general, noted that the aid the Philippines has been receiving from Japan has proven to be “invaluable” in crafting various infrastructure roadmaps and masterplans.

In line with the Duterte administration’s focus on infrastructure development, improving the country’s regulatory framework is a must in ensuring the delivery of these infrastructure projects, Pernia said.

“Improving the regulatory framework is necessary to ensure that infra and services are delivered in the right places and at the right time,” he said.

The socioeconomic planning secretary cited the transport sector as one area that needs improved regulatory functions, involving the separation of conflicting roles of some agencies that act as both regulator and operator.
This is in line with the principle of right-sizing for more efficient public service delivery.

“If necessary, independent regulatory bodies will be created to promote greater transparency and subsequently encourage more investments, as in the case of the water resources sector,” Pernia said.
“The capabilities of the government to plan for, develop, operate and maintain infra facilities will also be enhanced,” he added.

PPP ‘needs improvement’

Pernia also addressed the need to improve the country’s Public Private Partnership (PPP) program.
“While the Philippine PPP program has received international recognition, there are still gaps in maximizing the potential of PPP as a tool for promoting infra development and national progress,” the NEDA chief said.

The framework of the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) law, which authorizes the financing, construction,
operation and maintenance of infra projects by the private sector, is one of the programs cited as needing improvement.

“Amendments to the BOT law and its IRR are among the priority legislations intended to raise the efficacy of private sector participation and to keep policies attuned to the changing biz environment,” Pernia said.

Among the amendments to the BOT Law proposed by Pernia are the inclusion of new variants for contractual agreements, such as joint ventures (JV), exemption from payment of real property taxes for project of national significance and other measures to further improve PPP procurement processes.

“Along with these amendments, investments in human capital development will be pursued to enhance the capability of implementing agencies to undertake PPP projects,” Pernia added.

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