Marcos cites infrastructure gains, plans under 'Build, Better, More' program

The P8.3-trillion Build Better More (BBM) infrastructure program would address the water shortage and connect islands through bridges and expressways, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said on Monday, July 24, during his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. delivers his second State of the Nation Address on Monday, July 24, 2023. (Photo from the Presidential Communications Office)

Several times during his one-hour-and-10-minute speech, the Chief Executive took note of the importance of key infrastructures in boosting the country’s economy, tourism, and foreign investments.

“One of the keys to continuing economic growth is infrastructure development. So, we will build better, and more. Our 8.3-trillion peso ‘Build Better More’ Program is currently in progress and being vigorously implemented,” he said, adding that the whole country will benefit from the 194 projects under the BBM program, 123 of which are entirely new projects.

“The underlying logic to our infrastructure development is economic efficiency. We are opening up all gateways to mobilize goods and services at less cost and in less time, and ultimately, to drive the economy forward.”

His administration’s goal is for infrastructure spending to comprise five percent to six percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), which is the value added to a country’s economy during a certain period through the production of goods and services.

The flagship projects of the BBM program would invest in physical connectivity, water resources, agriculture, health, digital connectivity, and energy.

Chief among his concerns is the creation of a Department of Water Resource Management, which Marcos said he’s currently in talks with Congress for, although a Water Resources Management Office was already established “to handle the delicate job of handling water.”

“Ang tubig ay kasing-halaga rin ng pagkain. Kailangan nating tiyakin na may sapat at malinis na tubig para sa lahat at sa mga susunod na salinlahi (Water is as important as food. We need to ensure that there is enough clean water for all and for the next generations),” Marcos said.

Another priority for the President is a road network plan that “must link not only our three major islands but all prospective sites of economic development” since physical connectivity infrastructures—roads, bridges, seaports, airports, and mass transport—account for 83 percent of the BBM program.

“Inter-modal connectivity will also be a primary consideration. Roads, bridges and mass transport systems will be interconnected. This network will provide access and passage to vital and bustling economic markets, such as agriculture hubs, tourism sites, and key business districts.,” he stressed.

So far, the Marcos administration has already “initiated several railway projects” totaling more than 1,000 kilometers in length.

Among these is the southern leg of the North-South Commuter Railway System, which “is now in full swing.”

The President expects that in a few years, traveling from Pampanga to Laguna and vice-versa would only take two hours instead of the current four hours.

As of June 2023, the BBM program has also constructed, maintained, and upgraded more than 4,000 kilometers of roads and around 500 bridges across the country, the President said, adding that “crucial airport and port development projects across the country have also been completed.”

This included Cebu’s Pier 88 smart port, as well as the new passenger terminal buildings of Clark Airport and the Port of Calapan.

The program would also pave the way for the 1,200-kilometer Luzon Spine Expressway Network Program, which Marcos boasted could connect Ilocos and Bicol, reducing travel time by half—from 20 hours to nine hours.

He also mentioned a Mega-Bridge Program that would create a total of 12 bridges to connect islands and areas separated by water.

This includes the Bataan-Cavite Interlink Bridge, Panay-Guimaras-Negros Island Bridges, and Samal Island-Davao City Connector Bridge.

Marcos second SONA lasted for one hour and 10 minutes, starting at 4:07 p.m. and ending at 5:17 p.m.

This was just a few minutes shorter than his one-hour-and-14-minute first SONA in 2022.