House panel OK's bill seeking to strengthen public-private partnerships

The House Committee on Public Works and Highways on Thursday, Nov. 17, approved a substitute bill that aims to strengthen the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) scheme to expand the use of the program in major government infrastructure projects, such as expressways, railways, and airports, among others.

(Photo from DPWH)

Surigao del Sur 1st district Rep. Romeo Momo, chair of the Committee on Public Works and Highways, presided over the deliberations on nine proposed measures and one resolution that were consolidated into a substitute bill.

He said that President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. specifically mentioned the Public-Private Partnership Rationalization Act as one of the priority measures of his administration during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 25.

“The Committee on Public Works and Highways once highlighted and tasked by no less than our President . . . during his first SONA to carry out bills of national significance, which are considered as priority measures under this administration,” the lawmaker told his colleagues.

Noting that the PPP bill was already approved at the committee level during the 18th Congress, he lamented that there was a “lack of material time” to finalize discussions on it during the previous Congress.

“Several focused groups, discussions, and public consultations, participated by different stakeholders were already undertaken for the subject bill prior to this meeting,” Momo said.

“We hope we eventually pass this measure this time around on the way to the Senate and enacted into law,” he added.

The House panel discussed Momo’s own House Bill (HB) No. 1974, as well as House Bill (HBs) Nos. 49 by Albay 2nd district Rep. Joey Salceda, 2087 by Bulacan 6th district Rep. Salvador Pleyto, 2557 by Batangas 6th district Rep. Ralph Recto, 4584 by Bagong Henerasyon (BH) Party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera, 5180 by Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. Luis Raymund “Lray” Villafuerte Jr., and 4259 by Parañaque City 2nd district Rep. Gus Tambunting.

House Resolution (HR) 142 by Recto was also submitted in support of the bills.

In HB 1974’s explanatory note, Momo wrote about “a need to strengthen the Law in order to further expand the use of PPP, by making PPP projects more commercially attractive to private investors and beneficial to the users and the government".

PPP, he said, is suitable for “major infrastructure projects that are financially viable to the private sector and affordable by the facility users".

These include expressways, railways, airports, energy, water resources, and information and communication technology (ICT) projects.

Salceda, House Ways and Means Committee chairman, underscored the potential that the PPP law can bring to the table.

He said the measure, if enacted into law, will unlock “trillions” in corporate and private sector funds towards infrastructure projects in the country “to supplement the country’s public resources.”

“There is at least P27 trillion in financial resources available in the banking sector, and at least P600 billion annually in just the large conglomerates, every year for private sector financing of PPPs. We need that with current elevated debt levels,” Salceda explained.

He added that the “expertise, operational flexibility, and network of the private sector will be crucial in completing high-priority, big-ticket projects".

“More than just the financing, it’s the private sector’s ability to get things done. We need that.”