TWO projects under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) initiative that would have allowed the Philippines to better cope with the ill effects of the pandemic were shelved in 2013 and 2014.
In a recent Stratbase forum, former PPP Center Executive Director Cosette Canilao identified the projects as the P453-million Vaccine Self-Sufficiency Project and the P693.4-million Establishment of Cold Chain Systems Covering Strategic Areas in the Philippines. These were shelved in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
The Vaccine Self-Sufficiency Project, Canilao said, was shelved as a PPP project in favor of using government funds while the funding for the cold chain project was shifted to Official Development Assistance (ODA) from the Korean government.
“When I was still with the PPP Center, we actually developed two projects that are very critical to what’s happening right now. I really hoped that if that progressed then we would really have mitigated some impact of this Covid-19,” Canilao said. “I hope government can revisit these projects.”
In 2013, Canilao told this newspaper that the Department of Health (DOH) decided to undertake the Vaccine Self-Sufficiency Project through the regular procurement system rather than via PPP.
Back then, Canilao said the DOH expressed interest in proposing a PPP for digital cancer centers, which she had thought then would not maximize the potential of a full-blown PPP project. Based on the latest PPP Center project list, a project under development is the University of the Philippines’s Philippine General Hospital Manila Cancer Center.
The PPP Center said the project will include design, financing, construction, equipping and maintenance and operation of the first comprehensive cancer care center in the Philippines as a PPP.
Cold storage vital
Meanwhile, Canilao said, the cold storage project would have helped the Department of Agriculture (DA) improve its food logistics system. It can be noted that at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, farmers encountered problems in bringing their produce to Manila.
The project was designed to provide cold storage facilities for farmers bringing their produce to Manila from Benguet and some parts of Southern Luzon.
But in 2014, the DA pulled out the project to be funded by “DA’s other programs,” Canilao told the BusinessMirror. The project was removed from PPP funding together with the P400-million Grains Central Project, the funding for which was shifted to a joint-venture agreement with National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor).
“[Using PPPs that were designed before could]save government two to three years in putting together its own pipeline of projects via a mode that they’re more comfortable with. However, we are where we are and I think [it will be good] for us to use private participation to revive the economy. I hope the government will focus on the projects that are already at the advanced stages,” Canilao said.
In a statement in 2011, the PPP Center said the Vaccine Self-Sufficiency Project was expected to reduce the overall cost for the DOH’s annual vaccine procurement by at least 20 percent to 30 percent. This means government could have saved approximately P240 million to P360 million out of the P1.2-billion annual purchase cost of the vaccines.
It also aimed to accelerate local vaccine production by establishing facilities for the local formulation, packaging and labeling of pentavalent vaccine (Diptheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Hepatitis B, Haemophilus Influenza B), Tetanus Toxoid, and single-dose Hepatitis B.
The cold chain PPP project, meanwhile, was initially envisioned to be directly managed by the DA, intends to reduce postharvest losses and maintain an inventory of quality perishable goods, stabilize food prices, and promote food safety consciousness.
The project initially involved the construction and operation of Cold Chain Centers in major production and consolidation areas of agri-fishery products of the Benguet-Manila cold chain route. Activities include precooling, packaging, handling, transportation, storage, and distribution, among others, for high-value crops such as fruits and vegetables, cut flowers, fishery, livestock and poultry meat products.