TO be scrupulously fair, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon did not explicitly express his opposition to the ambitious Build, Build, Build infrastructure development program of the Duterte administration. What he said was Build, Build, Build was a dismal failure because only nine of 75 flagship projects had been commenced, and because President Duterte had less than three years left in his term to make BBB happen.
Why the burly opposition senator should choose the Build Build Build program as his target for criticism completely escapes us, unless his object is to remind the nation that he has a big infrastructure project under his belt — the infamous Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) to enable the construction of his infrastructure brainchild, the Iloilo Convention Center.
Administration spokesmen and economic project planners at the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) have already refuted in great detail the senator’s evidently misguided assessment of Build, Build, Build.
They said, in summary, the following:
1. There are already 35 projects in the program that are rolling, while 12 more are set to begin in the next six to eight months.
2. Another 21 projects are in the advanced stages of government approval, while 12 others are in the advanced stages of feasibility studies.
3. Twenty-eight projects are set to be completed by 2022, and another 22 would be partially or substantially completed the same year.
4. The infrastructure projects came from a list of thousands of projects that was later revised downwards after 28 projects were found to be no longer feasible, while new ones were added, thus bringing the entire list to 100 projects.
We will take issue with Senator Drilon’s criticism of Build Build Build from another angle and equally important point. And this is the fact the senator incredibly seeks to obstruct or derail what we believe is the boldest, most ambitious, and possibly most consequential infrastructure or building project ever attempted by one presidential administration in our history.
In the history of nations, one of their defining hallmarks is the building of great infrastructure projects.
This was the case surely when the Dutch attempted and accomplished the miracle of making land out of sea through the progressive enclosure of the Zuider Zee over a period of 60 years, that added half a million acres to their country, enlarged it by 8 percent, and provided homes, farms and towns to a quarter of a million people.
And this was also the case in the story of America, when through large infrastructure projects, the nation built modern America and propelled it into the future.
Felix Rohatyn, the famous financier and former US ambassador to France, recalls the epic story of how the US government built America in a gripping book entitled, Bold Endeavors (Simon and Schuster, New York, 2009).
He narrates 10 large transformative events in American history, among them, the Louisiana purchase, which doubled the size of the country; the construction of the Erie Canal, which opened a water route to the West; and the building of the transcontinental railroad; the Panama Canal, and the interstate highway that modernized America in the era of Eisenhower.
Bold and innovative investments in America’s future, Rohatyn argues, is what transformed America into the most prosperous and richest country in modern world history.
In a similar way, great and visionary infrastructure projects have enabled China to achieve rapid and spectacular development. And now it is poised to become the biggest economy in the world, surpassing even the US.
On a smaller scale, we submit that the current Build, Build Build program of the Duterte administration is our signature project and signature moment to seize our place in the world economy and global affairs.
This ambitious and totally realistic endeavor — whose design financing and programming have been planned and designed by the country’s best engineers and development planners — will not only be our ticket into the 21st century. It will forge our national destiny.
Senator Drilon can probably see only as far as his provincial citadel.
The Filipino nation is bigger and much bolder than him. It dares to do more, and will achieve more.
Let us see whom history will better remember — Franklin Drilon or Build, Build, Build.