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Probe Build, Build, Build financing

CALOOCAN CITY – An aerial view of the 8.25-kilometer NLEX Harbor Link Segment 10 project along Samson Road in Caloocan City, 26 Jan 2018. The infrastructure will connect MacArthur Highway in Valenzuela City and Radial 10 in Navotas City, thus improving access between the port and Northern Luzon provinces. The project has been integrated to the Build, Build, Build program of the government that is seen to spur annual infrastructure spending to P1.4 trillion from 2017 to 2022. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

To ensure “judicious, prudent, and sound economic planning” by the government, Senator Win Gatchalian wants to review the status, sustainability, and risks of projects under the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” (BBB) infrastructure program.

In filing Senate Resolution No. 759, which calls for a Senate inquiry into the financial requirements of BBB, the senator said: “There is a need to closely monitor the debt obligations and modes of financing incurred and adopted by the Duterte administration for its “Build, Build, Build” Program to ensure transparency, accountability, and prudent use of loans and other financing methods utilized by the government.”

The senator, who chairs the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, explained that 40 out of 75 approved infrastructure projects as of July 2017 will be funded through Official Development Assistance (ODA), which comprises the bulk of expenditures amounting to PHP 1.006 trillion pesos.

He said that the total outstanding debt of the national government as of December 2017 reached PHP 6.65 trillion, while around PHP 329.05 billion was allocated for debt servicing in the 2018 General Appropriations Act (GAA). This month, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas reported that the country’s external debt-to-GDP ratio was 23.3% in 2017  – a five-year low and a 5.6% decrease from the 28.9% ratio recorded in 2013.

“It is incumbent upon us senators, in the exercise of our power of the purse, to ensure that public funds diverted from health, education, and social services financing for debt services payment are properly appropriated,” Gatchalian stressed.

A flagship infrastructure program of the administration, the BBB is expected to spur infrastructure spending from 2017 to 2022 to about PHP 8 to 9 trillion, resulting in annual infra spending of PHP 1.4 trillion.