Legislating the Comprehensive Infrastructure Development Master Plan, a 50-year infrastructure master plan, is needed to boost the country’s growth and development to better guide the projects and programs of succeeding administrations.
In his opening statement at the public hearing of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs on Monday, Senator Joseph Victor G. Ejercito said a master plan, which will be “the plan of all plans,” will also allow the country to catch up with its neighbors.
However, the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) said that while it supports this proposal, there is the matter of passing a land use act that could better facilitate the implementation of infrastructure projects.
“Kung may maiguguhit po tayo na maayos na blueprint na pinagtutulungan ng ating mga eksperto, matitiyak po natin na magpalit man ang pangulo o administrasyon ay may iisang plano na tayo susundan, maiba man ang engineer, foreman o karpintero ay may pangkalahatang gabay na pagbubuo ng mga pangarap,” Ejercito said.
“Probably, this is a result of our political system as well. Yung three-year term and six-year term, with the term limit, most of our public officials, even Presidents, I would say, are only concentrated on the short and medium term. Yun ang pagkukulang natin, yung long-term planning,” he added.
During the hearing, Neda Assistant Secretary Jonathan L. Uy said implementing projects whether at the national or regional level depend on the local land use plans. The proposed National Land Use Act has been languishing in Congress for over 30 years.
“The important thing, Mr. Chair, that we’d like to factor in what is discussed so far is essentially that a lot of the national master plans and regional master plans will depend on local land use and development plans.
So Mr. Chair, we would submit that one of the considerations in this proposed legislation will be the harmonization with regard particularly with land use,” Uy said.
Apart from passing a land use act, Uy also said there is a need for some flexibility when it comes to technology. He said legislating a long-term infrastructure plan should allow the government to adopt better technologies in undertaking projects.
Access to concessional funding
The Neda official also stressed the need for flexibility in terms of funding sources in the proposed legislation. Uy said when the country enters Upper Middle Income Country (UMIC) status, the Philippines may not have as much access to concessional funding from development partners.
Based on the World Bank, a UMIC is a country whose Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is between $4,096 and $12,695. These countries that enjoy higher per capita incomes graduate to less or no concessional funding from sources of Official Development Assistance (ODA).
Under the rules of multilateral development banks such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB), UMIC countries are no longer given access to concessional financing. This means, sovereign loans sourced by UMIC countries are slapped with higher interest rates.
“If we become an upper middle income country, we may have to graduate to less concessional development assistance kaya we have to have alternative funding strategies. So ang lumilitaw po, we cannot rely on the usual very concessional funding from Japan or other developed countries,” Uy said.
“Part of the discussion is also looking at a financing strategy so we are suggesting that the legislation, if it will pass, will also look at providing more flexibility to the executive and all the parties in accessing financing. I think green financing is mentioned but there are other [sources], Mr. Chair,” he added.
Meanwhile, Ejercito said he proposed the infra masterplan in response to the “depressing state” of the country’s major infrastructure programs, which he described as “inconsistent and disorganized.”
He cited the frequent reblocking of roads that are still in good condition and the implementation of road widening projects that inflict damage on urban drainage systems as symptoms of this “cancer.”
Ejercito said his proposed Comprehensive Infrastructure Development Master Plan will boost the country’s investment climate and create new jobs and opportunities for Filipinos.
“Infrastructure is vital to foster economic development. When countries invest in infrastructure, it leads to higher foreign and local investments, job opportunities, and efficient government services,” he said.
“We are here today to help our government craft a long-term infrastructure development master plan by providing legislative guidelines to ensure continuity of high-quality integrated infrastructure projects,” he added.
In July, Ejercito filed Senate Bill 158, which seeks to create and institutionalize a Comprehensive Infrastructure Development Master Plan.
The said plan, which will be drafted by the Neda and monitored by a Joint Congressional Oversight Committee, would cover several areas of development: transportation and logistics, energy, water resources, information and communications technology, social infrastructure, agri-fisheries modernization and food logistics, and asset preservation and maintenance strategies.
He said his proposed master plan hopes to ensure the continuity of the country’s major infrastructure programs despite changes in administration. The said plan also aims to harmonize the government’s competing infrastructure priorities, he said.
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