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Presidential candidates plan to continue infra development

THE PHILIPPINES’ primary presidential candidates for the May 2022 elections on Thursday vowed to pursue infrastructure development, with an opposition candidate planning to veer away from car-centric projects.

In a forum organized by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industries (PCCI), Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo said she would focus on infrastructure projects that would benefit commuters, transport workers, and bikers.

“We will prioritize building a nationwide active transport infrastructure, starting with the most traffic-congested areas,” she said. “Our goal is to make roads for people, not cars.”

Unlike the “car-centric” public budgeting of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, Ms. Robredo said she would prioritize “feasible and strategic” projects with “high impact.”

She aims to set up more bus rapid transit systems, protected bike lanes, bike racks, safe pathways and better bus stops, and prioritize railways. She added that she will initiate “better service contracts” for transport workers.

The opposition leader also plans to “map the points” where corruption enters the procurement process in infrastructure projects and be “more discerning” on which projects are actually needed and which ones are being used as cash cows by politicians.

HOUSES AND ICT

Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko” M. Domagoso, for his part, said socialized housing will be the focus of his infrastructure program.

“Whenever we make housing available and affordable for the poor, we give back human dignity to every family and beneficiary of the program,” said Mr. Domagoso, who vowed to work with Congress to reduce the taxes on petroleum and electricity.

“We must also build more and better health facilities, while addressing problems of malnutrition and mental health,” he added.

Senator Panfilo “Ping” M. Lacson vowed to prioritize the full implementation of the country’s national broadband program, which seeks to accelerate the deployment of fiber optic cables and wireless technologies throughout the country, particularly in remote areas.

The program that seeks to improve the overall internet speed in the country will create a “secure and reliable information and communications technology infrastructure system,” Mr. Lacson said.

The veteran senator’s pledge to improve the country’s ICT infrastructure resonates with his vow to promote “interoperability of all government processes” to avoid corruption, fully implement the law on universal healthcare system, and fast-track the implementation of the national I.D. system.

Mr. Lacson, who is known for his strong stance against state corruption, vowed to make infrastructure spending transparent by instituting a geotagging system containing all private projects.

Senator Emmanuel “Manny” D. Pacquiao, meanwhile, said he will push for the creation of “more skyways for Manila.”

He also wants to build a subway and bullet trains “from north to south” in the northern Luzon mainland.

The senator who hails from Mindanao in the south said he will also make sure to bring development in the central and southern parts of the country.

To fund more infrastructure projects, the government must boost non-tax revenues, said the senator who vowed to reduce the country’s reliance on foreign loans.

Mr. Pacquiao also promised to further cut corporate tax to 15%, which is currently at 25% based on a 2021 law that lessened the previous 30% rate.

Senator Christopher Lawrence T. Go said he will sustain and build on the gains of the Duterte government, promising to pursue an inter-island megabridge program and other projects in the administration’s infrastructure plan.

He also vowed to “invest heavily” in regional storage facilities to avoid food wastage.

The Philippine government had tweaked the so-called “Build, Build, Build” program several times in consideration of those projects with the best chance of undergoing construction or being completed before President Rodrigo R. Duterte steps down by end-June next year.

The infrastructure list was subjected to at least three revisions after undergoing feasibility reassessment. The National Economic and Development Authority board, chaired by the President, put the value of these projects at P4.13 trillion in mid-2020, lower than the P4.23-trillion cost estimate for the 2019 revised list. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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