By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos, November 9, 2023; Philippine News Agency

MANILA – The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board approved Thursday at least three high-impact infrastructure projects during its 11th meeting convened by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. at Malacañan Palace in Manila.

In a Palace briefing, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and NEDA director general Arsenio Balisacan said the approved projects were the Department of Agrarian Reform’s (DAR) Pang-Agraryong Tulay Para sa Bagong Bayanihan ng mga Magsasaka (PBBM) Bridges Project worth PHP28.2 billion; Phase 3 of the Maritime Safety Capability Improvement Project for the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) worth PHP29.3 billion; and the revised parameters, terms and conditions (PTCs) of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) Extension Project.

Balisacan said the PBBM Bridges Project aims to construct around 350 modular steel bridges with an estimated total length of 10,500 linear meters, in an effort to enhance access and connectivity for agrarian reform communities.

“To improve the quality of life in rural areas, the approved project aims to increase the productivity and income of at least 350,000 households. The ease of mobility and access to and from the agrarian reform communities will generate more employment and address the communities’ need for better access to social services and market outlets for their agricultural products,” he said.

Meanwhile, Balisacan said the third phase of the Maritime Safety Capability Improvement Project involves the design, construction and delivery of five units of 97-meter multi-role response vessels, as well as a five-year integrated logistics support.

“This will further improve the Philippine Coast Guard’s capability to respond to threats and incidents within the country’s maritime jurisdiction. In particular, the project will enable the Coast Guard to secure important sea lines of communication in the West Philippine Sea, Sulu-Celebes Seas, and the Philippine Sea. It will also help the PCG combat illegal activities and enforce maritime laws in the Philippine waters,” he said.

Balisacan said the total project cost will be financed through an official development assistance or ODA loan from the government of Japan.

On the other hand, the revised PTCs of the TPLEX Extension Project, as recommended by the NEDA Board’s Investment Coordination Committee (ICC), were negotiated between the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the original proponent of the unsolicited public-private partnership (PPP) project.

“Following this approval, the DPWH will proceed with the publication of the invitation for comparative proposals in accordance with the Revised 2022 Build-Operate-Transfer Law Implementing Rules and Regulations, as well as the ICC Guidelines on Processing PPP proposals,” Balisacan said.

The TPLEX Extension Project, which was approved in June this year, involves a 59.4-kilometer toll road, which will connect from the last exit of TPLEX in Rosario, La Union and will terminate in San Juan, La Union.

The project is envisioned to stimulate economic activity, alleviate road congestion, provide better and safer road access and promote the development of new growth centers in nearby regions, Balisacan said.

Progress report

Balisacan also released a progress report on the infrastructure flagship projects (IFPs) under the “Build Better More” Program for the third quarter of 2023.

He said one of the 197 IFPs, specifically the Samar Pacific Coastal Road Project by the DPWH, has been completed.

“The 18.65-kilometer road project links the towns of Laoang, Catubig, and Palapag by establishing a circumferential road around the entire Samar Island. The road is expected to enhance economic activity in the region by improving the delivery and movement of essential goods and services and creating more job opportunities,” Balisacan said.

He said around 71 IFPs are currently ongoing, 29 have been approved for implementation and nine are awaiting government approval.

He added 52 IFPs are in the project preparation phase, while 35 others are in the pre-project preparation phase.

Balisacan assured the public that the Marcos administration remains steadfast in its commitment to ensuring the efficient implementation of high-impact infrastructure projects to enhance connectivity, ramp up employment-creating investments and improve Filipinos’ living standards.

“We will continue with our commitment to pursue important initiatives to ensure social and economic transformation towards a matatag, maginhawa, at panatag na buhay para sa lahat (stable, comfortable, and peaceful life for all),” he said.