Philippines to revise 'Build, Build, Build' plan to make it more achievable

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines is carrying out an inventory of infrastructure projects under its ambitious six-year, $180 billion “Build, Build, Build” program to come up with a more realistic list of projects.

Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia told Reuters the government was “trimming” the list of 75 flagship projects it had promised to deliver or at least start and “substituting with others more economically feasible and doable”.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s government has promised to usher in a “golden age of infrastructure” by building and modernizing airports and ports, and lifting economic growth in the country of more than 107 million people.

But its plan has hit snags, the most recent of which is the delay in the approval of this year’s budget, forcing economic managers to trim their growth target for this year to 6% to 7% from 7% to 8%.

In a separate media briefing on Friday, Pernia said the revised list could even reach 100 projects as they replace big ones with many smaller but “game-changing projects” like roads, bridges and irrigation systems that will benefit provinces not included in the original list.

Pernia said the government has struck three long-bridge projects costing 161 billion ($3.14 billion) off the original list because they are “not economically viable” and tough to build because the technology is not yet available.

Not all of the projects in the revised list, which will be released next week, will be finished during Duterte’s term, but “half of the 100 will be either completed or started, that is for sure,” Pernia said. Duterte’s six-year term ends in 2022.

The government has planned to finance the projects through its budget, official development assistance, private sector funds and loans.

ING economist Nicholas Mapa said the scaled-down plan should still give the economy a boost.

“Regardless of scale and scope, chasing the golden age of infrastructure will go a long way to helping clear out the decades-long backlog of infra development, and this should be growth-positive both in the near term and medium term as our productive capacity increases”, Mapa said.

Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Hugh Lawson