The Philippine Star : Pursue Duterte infrastructure program, Marcos urged

By Delon Porcalla | The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. should start where his predecessor, President Duterte leaves off, most particularly massive infrastructure projects that have been stalled for various reasons, if only to let the country recover from adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to his expected allies in the House of Representatives.

They are hopeful that the Build Build Build projects of the outgoing administration will still be pursued to resuscitate the economy that suffered a recession in 2020.

Among those who vowed support for Marcos are Representatives Joey Salceda of Albay, who chairs the House ways and means committee; LRay Villafuerte of Camarines Sur; Alfred Vargas of Quezon City, who chairs the social services committee; and Deputy Speakers Isidro Ungab and Arnie Teves Jr.

Salceda reiterated his call for the privatization of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) as a means for the government “to raise new revenues and decongest Metro Manila” as a way to “offset the fiscal impacts of COVID-19.”

“We should consider privatizing the NAIA, and let me clarify: I don’t mean just an outright sale, if the incoming president is uncomfortable with disposing of government properties. It’s around 625 hectares, double the size of Bonifacio Global City,” he said.

“A study done on the matter five years ago estimated multiplier effects of redevelopment to be as much as P5.4 trillion in economic value. The land, of course, costs around P400 billion,” he added.

There is plenty of potential for value creation in the proposal, according to the Bicolano lawmaker.

“We can adopt the New Clark City approach of master-planning in the area, profiting from the sale of development rights, rental income, appreciating value due to new business activity,” he said.

Villafuerte also proposed what he calls “township revitalization” to ensure a strong and “sustainable economic rebound” on a national scale, where it will “create a lot of jobs outside the national capital” and spur development in the provinces, thereby decongesting the metropolis.

“Its long-term goal is to decongest Metro Manila and other urban areas by creating growth hubs in the countryside,” he said.

He added that this would accelerate and strengthen the country’s recovery from the pandemic plus the economic fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Vargas and Ungab expressed their support for the call of incoming speaker, Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez for budgetary support for the proposal that would provide the Bayan Bangon Muli stimulus package to the poorest of the poor.

“The newly elected president knows that a lot of work needs to be done and the challenges are rife, so deciding to work closely with Congress is the right step towards accomplishing his goals and targets for our economy to recover,” Ungab, a congressman from Davao, said.

“President(-elect) Marcos is right when he said that he looks forward to the new budget for 2023 to already include his priority programs and projects, among which is the proposed stimulus fund,” he added.

For Vargas, it is “crucial that we extend to the incoming administration the widest range of budgetary tools to address the continuing effects of the pandemic on affected sectors and bring the economy back on its feet.”

The same is true with Teves of Negros, who wished the new president well.

“We have to hit the ground running at the soonest time possible. We cannot afford to fail our people, most especially because BBM won by a very wide margin,” he said, referring to Marcos’ popular acronym.