THE government should strengthen its relationship with the country’s private sector, starting with bringing back Public-Private Partnership (PPP) in the implementation of big-ticket infrastructure projects.
This was the call made by Jose Ma. “Joey” Concepcion III, presidential adviser for entrepreneurship, during the 26th Visayas Area Business Conference (VABC) in Cebu City last Friday.
“We have to build the airports, bridges, roads, and all of that. We have to be open to bringing back the PPP. We need entrepreneurs to help government,” he said.
Speaking to around 400 delegates composed of business chamber members from all over the Visayas, Concepcion said involving the private sector in these government undertakings will ensure continuity in the vision for a better economy.
The Duterte administration earlier decided that most of the large PPP projects would be funded by the government or overseas development assistance (ODA) loans.
On the other hand, the private sector in many of these deals would only be allowed to bid for the operations and maintenance component.
The country’s PPP program suffered a major blow last May as the Department of Transportation canceled plans to bid out contracts to modernize, operate, and maintain five regional airports in Davao, Bacolod, Iloilo, Laguindingan and New Bohol.
Earlier reports said the department would instead pursue these projects, estimated to cost P108 billion, using funds from the government or through ODA loans.
By excluding the private sector from major components of these projects, Concepcion said the government may miss out on the “unique” vision that comes with an entrepreneurial mindset.
He mentioned Engineer Edgar Saavedra, who founded Megawide Construction Corporation, which forms part of the GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corporation (GMCAC), the private operator of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA), as one with a “fantastic vision.”
“His (Saavedra) vision is to have your Cebu airport beat Manila. He wants everyone to land in Cebu and take a flight to Manila. That means tourism here will really explode. Will you get that from a secretary? Not really because that is unique,” Concepcion said.
While he recognized that the Cabinet secretaries are hard-working, he also urged them to bring back PPP, stressing that there will be no continuity in vision without the private sector especially with administrations changing every six years.
“Give the construction of a subway to government because it will be too expensive, but management can be bid out down the road eventually. The private sector is really the best in managing things under proper rules. The government regulates and makes sure the public is taken care of in terms of rates and efficiency,” he added.
Concepcion added that allowing the private sector build and manage these projects would mean less expense for the government.
The government planned to spend over P1 trillion for infrastructure projects next year and a total of up to P9 trillion until 2022 under its ambitious “Build, Build, Build” program.
These include roads, bridges, airports, and mass transport systems, among others, spread across the country.