Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

1. The Public-Private-Partnership program of the Noynoy Aquino government is not an innovation since its framework is no different from the Build-Operate-Transfer model of previous governments. In fact, PNoy recently renamed the country’s BOT Center into PPP Center when he issued EO No.8 series of 2010. The name PPP is also misleading since many of the listed projects involve the selling of public projects to private investors. For example, the government plans to privatize the newly constructed Northrail Line (Manila-Clark) and Laguindingan Airport (Misamis Oriental). The maintenance and operation of Luzon’s two main airports, NAIA and Diosdado Macapagal Airport in Clark, will be privatized too. PPP is a fancy name for privatization.

2. The document itself confirms that PNoy’s PPP merely extends and expands the privatization program of Gloria Arroyo. PPP was only announced a few months ago and it was officially launched just a few days ago but the program briefer distributed to Congress members already boasts of several success stories such as the North Luzon Expressway, the privatization of MWSS and Mandaluyong Public Market (described as the cleanest public market in Asia). These ‘successful’ projects were completed by PNoy’s predecessors in Malacanang. PPP, therefore, merely systematizes the initial privatization program and infrastructure plan of the much maligned Arroyo government. PNoy and his team plagiarized Arroyo’s Strong Republic blueprint.

3. The PPP timetable reflects the shortsighted vision of PNoy. PPP projects are categorized into two: projects for 2011 rollout and projects for medium term rollout. All projects are expected to be completed/constructed on or before 2016, the final year of PNoy’s six-year term. It seems politicians and policymakers are incapable of conceptualizing programs and mega projects that require a long time to complete. PNoy, like his predecessors, suffers from an infrastructure and edifice complex. But maybe we should not expect too much from PNoy’s reform agenda. After all, PNoy is a traditional politician, not a visionary leader.

4. Everything is for sale. PPP projects include the building of expressways, road networks, railways, upgrading of airports, and even the reclamation of the Navotas coastal area. Also covered under the PPP scheme are the following: supply of treated bulk water to Metro Manila, irrigation projects, solid waste management projects, coal and geothermal plants, wind farms, education, housing, and health services. Pilipinas, kay cheap!

5. PNoy’s policy bias in favor of privatization is evident when he cited the private sector as the ‘main engine for national growth and development.’ And how does the government entice the private sector to support the PPP? By assuring them that they can charge tolls, fees, and rentals for 50 years. That’s half a century of guaranteed profit. PNoy is even more aggressive than Arroyo because he made a pledge that the government is ready to pay investors if PPP contracts are changed in the future. Never mind if contracts are later found to be disadvantageous to the Filipino people? It reminds me of the saintly Cory Aquino who mothballed the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant but continued to pay the foreign creditors who financed the project.

6. How do you screw the Filipino people? Let me count the ways. Below are the nine BOT variants (parang virus, maraming variants): Build-Operate-Transfer, Build-and-Transfer, Build-Own-and-Operate, Build-Lease-and-Transfer, Build-Transfer-and-Operate, Contract-Add-and-Operate, Develop-Operate-and-Transfer, Rehabilitate-Own-and-Transfer, Rehabilitate-Own-and-Operate. The law empowers the president of the Republic to approve other variations.

7. What are the high-impact urban projects? LRT in the south will be extended to Bacoor. LRT in the east will be extended to Masinag Junction. MRT-7 will pass through Commonwealth, Fairview, and San Jose del Monte in Bulacan. A highway above the old riles in Metro Manila will be constructed to connect the NLEX-SLEX. The Cavite-Laguna expressway (from coastal Cavite to Silang, then Cabuyao up to Calamba) will spur the urbanization in the south and will gobble up the remaining rural spaces in these provinces. Its counterpart in the north is C-6 (Skyway Bicutan, Taguig, Taytay, Antipolo, San Mateo, Rodriguez, Sta. Maria) which will speed up the urbanization in Rizal and Bulacan. CLEX or Central Luzon expressway will connect Tarlac City to Cabanatuan and Cabanatuan to San Jose City in Nueva Ecija. NLEX East will connect Cabanatuan to Manila via a parallel road with Daang Maharlika through Commonwealth, La Mesa Parkway in Quezon City, San Miguel in Bulacan, and Gapan in Nueva Ecija. MRT-8 is a 16-kilometer elevated dual-track between Sta Mesa in Manila and Taytay in Rizal. R-7 features a high-speed transport system from Manila to Quezon City via Quezon Avenue and Commonwealth. R-7 alone is worth US$532 million.

8. The Calamba-Los Banos expressway is both a highway and flood control dike. It will decongest the national road in Calamba and promote the tourism spots near Los Banos. It is again a reminder that if we really want a faster route to Laguna, the best route is through the dying Laguna Lake. Develop a fast ferry system. Maximize the lake for transport purposes. But politicians, being politicians, will always prefer road projects that deliver higher kickbacks.

9. Several airports are mentioned in the PPP document. They include the building and modernization of airports in Bohol, Puerto Princesa, Clark Airport City Terminal, Mactan in Cebu, Balabac in Palawan, Laguindingan, Daraga in Albay, NAIA and Kalibo. I am not a big fan of airport expansion in the country, and these are my reasons: click here.

10. The RoRo is an effective political infrastructure system developed by Arroyo. It connected the islands; it tamed the wild seas ruled by pirates and smugglers; it distracted the people’s attention in the countryside. It enhanced the hegemony of the ruling state in the provinces. Today a new form of RoRo is set to be unveiled through the establishment of cold chain systems and agri-fishery centers. Like RoRo, it aims to connect Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. It will invade even the spaces occupied by dissident groups. What will be the response of the radical forces in the countryside?

11. The Philippines became the second geothermal power in the world in 1986. Somehow it explains why Marcos was able to rule the country for two decades. His massive energy infrastructure program solidified his leadership. Then, Ramos used the energy crisis in the 1990s as a justification for his emergency powers. Now, the building of power plants is included in PNoy’s PPP menu. The King which can bring “power” to the masses will have a long reign. But PNoy is going to build dirty power plants. Coal-fired power plants are scheduled for expansion in Sarangani, Subic in Zambales, Mauban and Pagbilao in Quezon, and Calaca in Batangas. Green activists are right when they described PNoy’s energy program as “daang madumi.”

12. PPP or Public-Private-Partnership – Is this it? Is selling the Philippines to the highest bidder the most creative idea that PNoy’s handlers can offer? PNoy’s PPP rewards his campaign donors with state-backed cash transfers through billion dollar infrastructure projects. PNoy is betraying his real bosses by continuing the anti-poor programs of Arroyo. What we need is a new kind of PPP: People Power (in the) Provinces. People Power (not) Privatization. PPP with a genuine pro-people leaning.

* I promise to write a separate article on the politics of RoRo and electrification. For reference, read PNoy’s PPP speech in Pasay. A comprehensive critical review of PPP was written by Bayan.

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One Response to “Arroyo-Aquino infrastructure projects”

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