Gov’t fast-tracks approvals of infra projects

Published December 22, 2019, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Chino S. Leyco

The national government will fast-track its approval of infrastructure projects before the Philippines joins the ranks of upper-middle income economies next year, the Duterte administration’s economic managers said.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said the country is poised to lose its privilege to avail of concessional loans from multilateral institutions once the nation finally advances from its current lower-middle income status.

Amid the country’s sustained economic expansion with an average annual growth of 6.3 percent between 2010 and 2018, its gross national income per capita is now expected to reach $3,896 next year, a category for an upper-middle income economy.

For this reason, Pernia said the Philippines has only until 2022 or 2023 to secure concessional financing that carries much lower interest rates from multilateral institutions like the World Bank.

“It’s now acceleration considerably the [implementation of infrastructure projects]… We really have to fast-track the approval of the projects, especially in terms of funding so we can avail of concessional loans,” Pernia told reporters.

But the burden of the looming higher interest rates on official development assistance (ODA) could be lessen if the Philippines’ investment grade credit ratings further improve.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said the economic team is now working unceasingly to attain the country’s much coveted “A” credit ratings.

“The roadmap to ‘A’ is being worked on by the entire team — Department of Finace (DOF), Bangko Sentral mg Pilipinas (BSP), Bureau of the Treasury, as well as National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA),” Dominguez said.

The roadmap is aimed at improving the country’s credit rating status currently at the “B” territory, the finance chief said.

“We’re going to lose our special interest rates since we will be graduating already to upper-middle income status so we have to make sure that the differentials in the interest rates will be lessened with the credit upgrade,” Dominguez explained.

Asked how soon the Philippines can get an “A” rating, he responded: “I cannot tell you how soon but we have to take a certain action, among them is our tax reform program.”

Last Friday, the NEDA Board’s Investment Coordination Committee (ICC) approved 12 additional infrastructure projects for key cities across the country.

Among the approved projects include the unsolicited operate-add-transfer (OAT) proposals from the Dennis Uy-led Chelsea Logistics for the Davao International Airport and Aboitiz InfraCapital, Inc. for the Laguindingan Airport.

The NEDA-ICC also gave its signal to proceed to the MRT-4 project, which will be co-financed by the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Another ADB-funded project called EDSA Greenways was also greenlit by the NEDA-ICC.