One of President Rodrigo Duterte’s most applauded promises in his first state of the nation address last year was to hasten infrastructure spending to ease the burden on the commuting public.
“We will accelerate infrastructure spending by improving national roads and bridges and implementing the Mindanao Logistics Infrastructure Network and other road network master plans. We shall pursue inter-island linkage projects,” Duterte told a joint session of Congress on July 25, 2016.
What’s the score after one year? While commuting remains hellish as ever, especially for riders of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) system along EDSA, the new administration has at least quickened the pace of approval of major infrastructure projects.
As of the end of June 2017, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the government’s main planning body, has approved 20 major infrastructure projects with a combined value of Php747 billion. (See map) These include two projects cleared by the Investment Coordination Committee (ICC), NEDA’s inter-agency committee that conducts the technical evaluation of projects before recommending these for approval by the NEDA Board, which is composed of Cabinet members.
The NEDA’s record under Duterte is a big improvement compared to the previous Aquino administration which managed to approve only 11 projects worth Php71.6 billion during its first year in power.
Apart from the faster pace of project approvals, the Duterte administration has also broadened the regional distribution of its proposed major infrastructure projects in the next five years. NEDA has listed an initial list of 75 flagship projects worth Php1.6 trillion that it wants to implement between 2017 and 2022. Compared to the Aquino administration’s list of flagship projects, which had a combined worth of Php1.1 trillion, the new list is more evenly distributed across the various regions and island groups.
While Metro Manila still gets about a third of the total value of projects, the proportion that goes to the so-called Mega Manila super region (Metro Manila, Central Luzon and CALABARZON fell to only 58.3 percent from 80.4 percent.
Luzon’s share declined to only 70 percent from 87 percent while the portion that goes to Visayas and Mindanao rose to 31 percent from only 13 percent under the previous administration. (See table)
So far, all the projects are in the planning and preparation stage. If they eventually get completed, then we’ll begin to see real change in the economic prospects of previously neglected regions in the country.
Pauline Macaraeg is Entrepreneur PH's data journalist. Follow her on Twitter @paulinemacaraeg