Philippine gov't approves US$9b infrastructure projects

Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Nearly a month after monsoon rains inundated large parts of Metro Manila, Philippine President Benigno Aquino and his Cabinet yesterday gave the green light for a 351-billion peso (US$8.3 billion) flood-control system that is expected to be completed in 2035.

The National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) board, chaired by Aquino, also approved the extension of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line 2 from the Santolan station in Pasig City to the Masinag Junction in Antipolo City, and the acquisition of additional coaches for MRT 3.

The flood-control master plan, the LRT and MRT projects, the construction of airports in Daraga, Albay province, and Panglao in Bohol province, as well as the upgrade of roads and bridges were approved by the Neda board in the Palace.

Together with the 351-billion peso flood-control master plan, the total cost of the projects is 407.4 billion pesos.

The Department of Public Works and Highways' master plan, which calls for at least 351.72 billion pesos in infrastructure spending, covers a total of 11 infrastructure projects.

The projects would be funded by the national budget, loans and grants, and public-private partnerships.

"The [flood-control] master plan has been approved by the Neda board with the initial allocation of 5 billion pesos,¿ Communication Secretary Ricky Carandang told reporters after the meeting. "That will happen immediately.¿

In the aftermath of last month's deluge in Metro Manila and the central and southern parts of Luzon, triggered by weeks of monsoon rains, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) unveiled the master plan to address the perennial flooding in the metropolis.

Cheaper way

An environment lawyer said there was a cheaper, faster and natural way to address flooding in Metro Manila. Antonio Oposa Jr., a Ramon Magsaysay awardee in 2009, proposed that 100 million pesos be set aside to acquire property for water collection ponds.

"Let's not build everything in concrete,¿ he told a hearing of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Clean Water Act last week.

The 11 infrastructures in the DPWH master plan include the Manila core area drainage improvements, 27.2 billion pesos; East Manggahan Floodway and improvement in Cainta and Taytay rivers, 26 billion pesos; Malabon-Tullahan river improvements, 21.6 billion pesos; Meycauayan river improvements, 14.04 billion pesos; Valenzuela-Obando-Meycauayan river improvements, 8.631 billion pesos; land-raising for small cities around Laguna Lake, 7.15 billion pesos; and improvement of rivers that flow into Laguna Lake, 637 million pesos.

Also included in the plan are "marginal priority¿ projects: South Para?aque-Las Pi?as river improvements, 17.3 billion pesos; and West Manggahan area drainage improvements, 5.52 billion pesos.

"The DPWH project can proceed well as the funds were released. They should start in a matter of weeks,¿ Carandang said.

Other projects approved by the Neda board were:

Various bridge projects of the DPWH across the country, from 2013 to 2017 (16.3 billion pesos)

Change in scope, increase in cost and implementation of extension for Mindanao Roads Improvement Project, from 2012 to 2014 (3.9 billion pesos)

Bicol International Airport Project, from 2013 to 2015 (4.8 billion pesos)

New Bohol, Panglao Airport Development Project, from 2012 to 2017 (7.4 billion pesos)

Strengthening of Angat Dam and Dike Project 2013 to 2016 (5.7 billion pesos)

Request by Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. for financing the Agus VI Hydroelectric Power Plant (units 1 and 2) Upgrading Project, whose cost and period of implementation are not available

The 4.19-kilometre extension of LRT 2 from 2012 to 2016 is expected to cost 9.7 billion pesos, while the MRT 3 Capacity Extension Project from 2012 to 2019 would cost 8.6 billion pesos.

The MRT 3 project involves the acquisition of 52 light rail vehicles.

"There were also various bridge construction projects which were proposed previously by the DPWH. Many of these bridges have to do with the rehabilitation of calamity-stricken areas .... We have approved the acceleration of the timetable for that,¿ Carandang said.

The two projects whose approval was deferred were the Cavite-Laguna Expressway Project and the acquisition of vessels by the Philippine Coast Guard, especially patrol boats, he said.

"There is the Cavite-Laguna Expressway project. We need to clarify some details, like how it fits in with the national road integration,¿ Carandang said.

"There is also the acquisition of the vehicles for the Coast Guard, especially patrol boats. There are technical questions that needed to be addressed before it gets approval,¿ he added.

Once the technical questions were addressed, the projects could move forward, he said.

With a report from Ana G. Roa

US$1 = 41.9 pesos

COPYRIGHT: ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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