By Bernadette D. Nicolas, April 5 2019; Business Mirror

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MALACAÑANG has expressed confidence that economic managers can immediately submit the additional documents that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is seeking before deciding on their request for an exemption from the public works ban.

This, as Malacañang acknowledged on Thursday that the compliance with the Comelec directive will delay the implementation of 1,132 public infrastructure projects.

“We assure everyone that the economic managers are on top of the situation. They know what to do and they do not have to be told what steps they should undertake. Our economic managers have, in fact, requested the Comelec for an exemption as early as February, a month before March 29, when the ban took effect,” said Presidential Spokesman and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador S. Panelo.

“Delays are indeed possible and…are inevitable at times, given the practical dynamics and legal dictates of our country, but these can be avoided or minimized with proper due diligence by those responsible. A little delay is much better than no major infrastructure projects at all like what happened in the previous administration,” Panelo added.

The Comelec Campaign Finance Office sent a letter on March 26 to the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), Department of Finance (DOF) and Department of Budget and Management (DBM) informing them of the need to submit additional documents. These include a certified true copy of certificate of completion of public works projects, notice of award of contract, contract agreement and statement of account, among others.

The Comelec said it will use the documents to ensure that the list of projects is allowed by the Omnibus Election Code.

Economic managers sought exemption from the public works ban, which took effect on March 29, to minimize the adverse impact of a reenacted budget on GDP growth this year.

The Comelec said, however, that it grants only an “exception,” and the request for additional documents will allow the poll body to determine the projects that are automatically excepted from the public works prohibition.

If the exception is not granted, the country’s economy would have to contend with the triple whammy of a reenacted budget, the impact of El Niño and the possible delay in the implementation of 1,132 public infrastructure projects.

The projects include the 145 projects submitted for the 2019 General Appropriations Bill; the 603 from the Department of Public Works and Highways; and the 384 funded by official development assistance.

Neda Undersecretary for Regional Development Adoracion M. Navarro earlier said the agency is coordinating with the DOF and DBM. Implementing agencies have also been asked to submit the additional documents.

Some of those excepted from the public works ban are maintenance of existing and/or completed public workers; those undertaken by contract through public bidding held or by negotiated contract awarded before March 29; and emergency work necessitated by the occurrence of public calamity among others.

Projects contracted under a public-private partnership scheme and build-operate-transfer are also not covered by the ban.

Government projects, which fall under any of these categories, are automatically allowed to continue construction during the election ban, which started on March 29 and will end on May 12. However, these projects are still open to scrutiny from any party and the Commission on Audit.