The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in the Philippines is preparing plans to “fast-track” the resumption of projects under its Infrastructure pipeline that had stalled since the government last March 17 imposed an enhanced community quarantine in Luzon to control the spread of COVID-19.
Construction of projects under the administration’s “Build, Build, Build” would continue after the lifting of the lockdown, targeted by April 30, with priority on big-ticket, high-impact projects. Those slated for completion this year are comprised of public and private-sector projects such as:
- The 18.3-kilometer Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3 that will reduce travel time between the North Luzon Expressway and South Luzon Expressway to about 20 minutes from more than two hours.
The tollroad, backed by conglomerate San Miguel Corp., suffered a mishap last January after a section of the expressway collapsed as a result of heavy damage from a fire in Pandacan.
- Other projects due for completion this year are the NLEx Harbor Link, the Mindanao Avenue Extension Segment 2C and the Laguna Lake Highway.
Meanwhile, to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the DPWH is preparing new guidelines, with safety of construction workers among their priorities. They are considering administering a rapid COVID-19 test for the workers, and housing them in a facility within the site to limit their possible exposure to the virus. The DPWH will seek the approval of health authorities and the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) before they will resume construction work.
Under the original 2020 national budget, the government’s two main Infrastructure implementing agencies — Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and Department of Transportation (DOTr) — have a Php682.3 billion (USD 13.5 billion) budget, of which around Php30 billion (USD 591 million) has been reallocated to critical areas to help the government address the COVID-19 crisis. However, the current administration has recently announced plans to hike its Infrastructure spending to help create more jobs, spur domestic demand and stimulate the local economy post-lockdown, while enhancing connectivity within the country.
Back in mid-March, the Philippines’ biggest island, Luzon, which also houses its capital region – the National Capital Region (NCR) – was placed on a one-month “enhanced community quarantine” (ECQ), which is effectively a total lockdown, restricting the movement of the population. Other provinces followed suit with their lockdown measures. The ECQ has just been extended until May 15 in selected provinces/cities in the country, including the NCR. Meanwhile, other regions and provinces considered moderate- and low-risk areas will be placed under general community quarantine from May 1 to 15. These areas will have more relaxed lockdown rules and several non-essential businesses will be allowed to reopen. After May 15, restrictions in NCR might be eased up as President Rodrigo Duterte indicated that the NCR “might open partially” under a modified community quarantine scheme. Moreover, a presidential adviser expressed confidence that the ECQ will no longer be extended past May 15, but underscored the need to ramp up the country’s testing capacity for COVID-19.
(Sources: CNN Philippines; GMA News Online; Inquirer.net; Manila Bulletin)