Marcos vows to continue ‘Build, Build, Build’ program

President Marcos Jr. intends to continue the flagship infrastructure program of the Duterte administration. 

During his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), Marcos said the Build, Build, Build (BBB) has proven to be an effective program in plugging the infrastructure gaps in the country. 

“The infrastructure program of the Duterte administration must not only continue but, wherever possible, be expanded. We shall confidently build on this firm foundation established by my predecessor — as it is in building an edifice. We must keep the momentum. And aspire to build better more,” he said. 

Marcos vowed to “not suspend” any ongoing projects that have already “been shown to be of benefit to the public that they serve.”

Former President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s BBB Program was characterized by its spending of between 5 percent to 6 percent of the GDP. Marcos intends to sustain that. 

“The planned expansion of infrastructure projects, I believe, would be possible if we continue to encourage the participation of the private sector in the development of our programs. Public Private Partnerships or PPPs hold great potential for that expansion, for infrastructure development and for innovation,” he said. 

On a more granular level, Marcos said he intends to implement P1.9 trillion worth of railway projects during his administration — a sum that his administration inherited from Duterte. 

These include the North-South Commuter Railway System, the Metro Manila Subway Project, the Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line 1 Cavite Extension, the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 7, and the Common Station. 

He also intends to build railway systems beyond the National Capital Region, including the Mindanao Railway Project, the Panay Railway Project, and the Cebu Railway System. 

When sought for comment, railway expert Rene S. Santiago said keeping infrastructure investments above 6 percent of GDP is “nice…but fiscal constraints will bring this aspiration down to earth.” 

He added that he agrees to continuing rail projects that already broke ground.

“But new railway projects mentioned are not viable – like Panay Railway, Mindanao Railway, Cebu Railway. Maybe, LRT for MetroCebu is ok,” Santiago said. 

Moreover, PPPs will only be effective if the government decides to amend its implementing rules and regulations (IRR). 

“PPP won’t fly unless toxic provisions in revised IRR are amended,” Santiago said, referring to the government veto on arbitration and the material adverse government action provisions. 

For his part, Move Metro Manila representative King Ocampo said Marcos “failed to address” how the principles of accessible, affordable, comfortable, and safe transportation “will be enforced as millions of commuters continues to wait in long lines and spend most of their time in traffic going to and from their destinations.” 

“While we laud the President’s continuous support to the Build Build Build projects such as railways and the Cebu BRT, we hope that the administration will enact policies and programs that can be immediately implemented to ease the daily difficulties of the commuters. Among the low hanging fruits are authorizing all PUV units to operate on existing routes, allowing existing operators to add units on existing routes, providing amnesty for all units with problematic documentation to operate, providing a just transition for colorum units to operate legally, and implementing service contracting budget on priority routes,” Ocampo said. 

Marcos did not utter a single word about commuters using land transport modes such as public utility buses, jeepneys, or UV Express. He also did not mention anything about transport sector being in a crisis. 

“Metro Manila and many Philippine cities are in a transportation crisis. While railways will produce results in the longer term — some rail projects will take more than 10 years — Filipino commuters need better mobility today. This means investing much more in road-based public transportation and in infrastructure for safe walking and cycling in every city,” Move as One Convenor Robert Sy said. 

He also suggested the government to spend 1.5 percent of GDP to develop road-based public transport modes. 

“Out of the planned spending for infrastructure of 5 percent to 6 percent of GDP, we suggest a target spending of 1.5 percent of GDP for road-based public transportation and for safe walking and cycling. Railways should remain part of the investment mix, but better balance across travel modes is needed for earlier and broad-based results,” he said. 

Image credits: BUILD.GOV.PH