PGMA to ask Comelec to exempt building of roads, bridges from election ban

January 8, 2010 10:46 pm 

MANILA, Jan. 8 — For the first time in the country’s electoral history, the construction of roads and bridges in most parts of Luzon may be allowed even during the campaign period leading to the May national elections.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will ask the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to exempt infrastructure projects identified by the Special National Public-Private Reconstruction Commission (SNPPRC) from the construction ban imposed every time the nation prepares to go to the polls.

The President’s request will be based on SNPPRC’s recommendations, which starts consolidating its list of projects on Jan. 14, said SNPPRC secretary-general Ricardo Saludo during Friday morning’s technical meeting at the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo.

The meeting was attended by representatives of government agencies involved in the reconstruction of infrastructure projects damaged by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng on September and October last year.

The World Bank (WB) estimates the damage caused by these back-to-back typhoons at P206 billion, or 2.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

More than 90 percent of the damage was sustained by the private sector.

SNPPRC is expected to submit to the President by the end of the month the list of projects that can immediately be implemented and their funding sources for the first half of the year.

As of today, SNPPRC’s list includes projects worth P3.36 billion. These projects will help unaligned funds of P1.47 billion from the 2009 budget and the unprogrammed P12 billion specifically allocated by both Houses of Congress for typhoon victims last year.

Congress has also approved another P50 billion this year to help typhoon victims.

“To be on the same safe side, the government agencies involved should already look into how they can align their budgets so that priority projects can be implemented quickly,” said Saludo.

Based on NDCC’s criteria, top priority will be given to “emergency repair and rehabilitation of vital public infrastructures and lifelines” such as hospitals and health facilities, schools, major roads and bridges, and farm-to-market roads.

The SNPPRC list of projects does not include the repair of school buildings

“Maybe, the Department of Education (DepEd) has the budget for it but we will eventually have to ask DepEd, if only to satisfy (our curiosity) on what it’s doing (in terms of repairing damaged schools),” Saludo said.

SNPPRC’s work was praised by World Bank country manager Bert Hofman , who said today that “things are falling into place nicely.”

He cited four factors in the $ 4.4 billion reconstruction of Luzon over the next three years that can help SNPPRC priotize its projects:

— Although the private sector bore the brunt of the damage caused by the typhoons, government action is important;

— Micro-enterprises were badly hit, in part because these were stocking up for the Christmas holiday, but these can be “running again with a little bit of help” from government;

— Relocation is not just about land; it must be near places of work for the relocates; and

— At the very least, investments in flood control should put Metro Manila back to the 1960s and 1970s when the system worked.

WB was a major donor in the last December’s pledging session for typhoon victims that garnered $ 5 billion from both international donors and the local private sector. (PNA)

RMA/OPS/ssc

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