Home » The Export Advocate » Infra, Infra, Infra

It has not been adopted yet as one of the mantras of the Aquino administration.

But we hope it will soon be elevated to the level of catch phrases “inclusive growth” and “sustainable development” which government’s economic managers keep on repeating in almost every public forum with the business community.

No less than President P’noy, in his keynote address to business leaders gathered last week to assess the reform agenda initiated by the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce a year ago, named infrastructure as one of the three most urgent agenda of his administration to rev up an economy that failed to meet growth targets last year.

The reform agenda is named Arangkada, a Filipino word literally meaning to move fast forward, and it intends to share recommendations leading to the creation of US$75 billion in new foreign investment, ten million jobs and over one trillion pesos in revenue for the Philippine economy within this decade.

P’noy named tourism and agriculture as the other two key areas where the government will plow in government resources and focus programs and projects. He revealed that he has released over P400 billion in infra funds set aside for last year to get the ball rolling.

Already going full-blast, the chief executive said, is the widening of the national highway from his home province of Tarlac to the Ilocos region. This, he said, will be followed with the extension of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac expressway to Nueva Ecija, not to mention the already on-going extension of the same superhighway to La Union. He also mentioned the upgrading of the Puerto Princesa airport to bolster tourism traffic seen doubling during his term.

In short, the Aquino government is walking the talk on the long neglected need to build those critical highways, railway systems, seaports and airports urgently needed 20 to 30 years ago but never built or completed. Direct funding from the yearly budget, official development funds and money from private investors through the much ballyhooed PPP (public-private partnership) program will be mobilized to build all these infrastructure projects.

Earlier in the same forum, former finance chief Roberto de Ocampo echoed the need for more “infra, infra, infra”, as most members of ASEAN including Vietnam and Indonesia have overtaken the Philippines in that field and left us behind in the race to prosper and lick poverty and joblessness problems.

If the country keeps on doing what it has been doing, that of posturing at the starting line of the race and never making it to the finish line, Cambodia, despite losing a whole generation of its best people, will also edge out the Philippines in the next few years.

Not to be outdone, the Arangkada group devoted the last segment of its assessment forum on infrastructure, fielding questions to a battery of experts on the challenge. Transportation facilities and power plants were identified to be urgently needed.

One good thing that came out of that forum is that the President shares the same reform agenda advocated by business organizations, pointing out that the same items were at the core of his campaign platform.

Let’s cross our fingers that this poor country of ours finally gets its act together and will not miss being part of the final economic arangkada already happening in Asia. And if, indeed, we will find more than half of our people much richer in 13 years, we will enjoy the new affluence the Pinoy way — with more fun.

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