Duterte’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ program a ‘dismal failure,’ Senator Drilon says

Senator Franklin Drilon <I>Photo: ABS-CBN News</I>
Senator Franklin Drilon Photo: ABS-CBN News

Upon learning that after two years, only nine of the Duterte administration’s 75 flagship infrastructure projects have started construction, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon yesterday declared the government’s “Build, Build, Build” program a “dismal failure.”

The ambitious program, launched by President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration in 2017, promised to usher in a golden age of infrastructure, including subways, flood control facilities, airports, road networks, and the planned Panay-Guimaras-Negros bridge, which aimed to link the three Visayan islands, but has also yet to start construction. The program initially laid out 100 projects, but after running into high costs and partnership problems, it trimmed the number of projects back to 75.

Read: Duterte’s ‘build, build, build’ a debt trap? Budget Secretary Diokno disagrees

Drilon had already questioned the program’s completion rate during a plenary deliberation on Monday for its proposed 2020 budget — pegged at a whopping PHP4.1 trillion (about US$80.6 billion).

Yesterday, the senator flatly told reporters, “Sad to say, the Build, Build, Build program of this administration is a dismal failure. We only have two years and a half left of this administration. I don’t think any substantial progress insofar as the program is considered will be achieved.”

“As I repeat, the execution is simply dismal,” Drilon added.

Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, who chairs the finance committee and is the main sponsor of the budget bill, defended the effort, pointing to the past decision to cut back on some projects, as well as to ongoing work under the project on the Binondo-Intramuros Bridge in Manila, the Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge in Makati, and the Clark Airport.

“It’s just really difficult to implement [government] projects, which is not unique to this administration. Almost all administration faces difficulties in [implementing] big projects,” Angara said.

Meanwhile, Duterte spokesperson Salvador Panelo in yesterday’s press briefing was quick to attack Drilon, who is allied with former President Benigno Aquino III.

“Senator Frank, look at the administration you previously belonged [to]; six years, not a single infrastructure project completed,” he said, referring to the Aquino administration, which actually completed seven projects at the end of its term, including construction of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway, and Cavite’s Daang Hari-South Luzon Expressway Road.

Read: Bishops give Aquino administration a grade of 3/10

Panelo went on to list some 12 projects currently under construction, including the MRT rehabilitation project, which is expected to be finished in July of 2021. He added that the LRT East Extension project, as well as Sangley Airport in Cavite, were nearing their completion.

Panelo also proceeded to note the completion of several smaller projects, like roadways, bridges, evacuation centers, and classrooms.

According to Senator Angara, the government expects to complete 12 major projects by next year, 17 more in 2021, and 26 others in 2022, he said.

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