MANILA – The government’s flagship “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure project will help “jumpstart” the economy from the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) crisis, a Palace official said on Wednesday.
In a virtual presser, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the government has yet to determine which infrastructure projects already appropriated under Build, Build, Build would be discontinued to prioritize the government response to Covid-19.
“Alam namin (We know) that it’s part of what’s written sa (in the) law, the President can shift certain items in the budget para tugunan ang pangangailangan natin sa Covid-19. Pero wala pa tayo sa point na ‘yan (to respond to Covid-19. But we haven’t reached that point yet),” Nograles said.
He was referring to the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (Republic Act 11469) provision that allows the “direct discontinuance” of appropriated programs, projects or activities of any agency of the Executive Department in the 2019 and 2020 national budget to use savings to augment Covid-19 response allocation.
He said the government is still trying to determine other sources of funds to augment the current PHP275-billion budget for Covid-19 response.
“Secretary of Finance (Carlos Dominguez III) and Secretary of Budget and Management (Wendel Avisado) are really looking for ways and means to find other sources of funds,” Nograles said.
He said the Build, Build, Build program, which has helped generate thousands of jobs, would also be crucial in helping the economy recover.
“We’re not touching Build, Build, Build yet and the reason for that is when we jumpstart the economy, malaking bahagi po ng pag-jumpstart ng ekonomiya ang Build, Build, Build (a big part of jumpstarting the economy is Build, Build, Build),” he said. “As much as possible naghahanap pa tayo ng ibang (we are looking for different) ways and means.”
President Rodrigo Duterte, in a televised public address late Monday night, said the government needs more funds for relief efforts as the country continues to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Under the Build, Build, Build program, the government has improved the country’s key infrastructures — bridges, roads, railways, urban mass transport, railways, airports, seaports, and new and better cities.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) was able to construct and rehabilitate about 9,845 km. of roads, 2,709 bridges, 4,536 flood mitigation structures, and 71,803 classrooms.
The program also generated 4,199,288 jobs and helped reduce the unemployment rate to 4.5 percent, the lowest rate since 2005.
Roadworks still prohibited
Following the resumption of limited work in 13 rail projects amid the imposition of the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine, Nograles said work in road projects will still remain discontinued.
He said deciding which road projects to resume work would be more difficult because there are many of them to identify.
Nograles also noted the importance of observing limited mobilization of personnel and skeletal staffing pattern, describing the resumption of limited work as a “balancing act”.
“Nagwo-worry lang talaga ang ibang members ng IATF kasi pag sinimulan mo na (Some members of the IATF worry that when you start) then you become selective which road works in particular. Once you start opening that, hihirit na yung iba (others will make the same request),” he said.
Nograles said calls to resume road works are being studied.
Earlier, The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) allowed the resumption of rehabilitation and construction for the Metro Rail Transit (MRT-3), Light Rail Transit (LRT-1) Cavite Extension, LRT-2 East Extension, LRT-2 West Extension, LRT-2 Fire Restoration, MRT-7, Metro Manila Subway, MRT-LRT Common Station in North Avenue in Quezon City, Philippine National Railways (PNR) Clark 1, PNR Clark 2 and Calamba, Subic-Clark Railway, PNR Bicol, and the Mindanao Railway. (PNA)