As the Philippine government ramps up infrastructure investment, ADB is helping agencies improve project preparation, speed up approvals, shorten start-up times, and deliver faster.

In more than three decades as a civil engineer at the Department of Public Works and Highways, Jose Al Fruto has handled numerous complex, large-scale infrastructure projects.

Not all have gone smoothly. Incomplete planning and design, insufficient funding, limited technical know-how in project preparation, and lack of inter-agency coordination are some of the factors that can slow big projects down.

As the Philippines ramps up infrastructure investment under President Rodrigo Duterte’s ambitious “Build, Build, Build” program, government agencies are changing the way they do business to make sure projects happen on time and on budget.

New ideas, technologies to support “Build, Build, Build”

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is supporting this effort through a new $100 million loan for the Infrastructure Preparation and Innovation Facility (IPIF). Infrastructure projects worth about $3.8 billion will be prepared under the facility. It will help the government expedite the cabinet’s review and approval process and shorten start-up periods for priority infrastructure projects.

“The IPIF will set a good working business model on how we can speed up infrastructure projects without compromising quality.”

Rolando Tungpalan

“There are many challenges in implementing a major infrastructure project. It will be a big help if the masterplan, feasibility study, and detailed engineering design are carefully carried out to realistically address the requirements of a particular project,” said Fruto, the assistant regional director of Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Region VI.

“We are also looking forward to the transfer of technology to our local engineers. Hopefully our engineers can adopt the best practices in all other projects of DPWH,” he said.

Up to $180 billion in new investment by 2022

The funding is ADB’s first technical assistance loan for the Philippine government. It will help DPWH and the Department of Transportation (DOTr) prepare flagship projects, including complex road networks, long-span bridges, flood control and urban water systems, and crucial public transport, port, airport, and railway investments.

These projects are part of the “Build, Build, Build” program involving $160 billion to $180 billion in infrastructure spending until 2022 to boost economic growth by improving access to markets and business opportunities across the country.

The IPIF will support only a small slice of the country’s huge infrastructure investment needs. But the facility will allow the government to accelerate project implementation and bring in international expertise and innovative practices in undertaking sophisticated, large-scale projects.

Faster projects without compromising quality

“The IPIF will set a good working business model on how we can speed up infrastructure projects without compromising quality,” said Rolando Tungpalan, Undersecretary for Investment Programming at the National Economic and Development Authority. “It will also set the stage for reforming our processes, our rules, and at the same time build capacity that hopefully will permeate to the larger bureaucracy.”

The timely mobilization of high-quality consulting services is critical to reducing project approval and start-up times. Consultants will be selected using ADB’s rigorous international competitive bidding process and will work hand in hand with implementing agencies to prepare projects. This close collaboration will bring expert advice and international best practice to government agencies, and introduce innovation in project implementation.

Under the facility, project management units responsible for day-to-day management of project outputs will be created at the DPWH and DOTr. The units will be headed by department undersecretaries and will lead project preparation, monitor project implementation, conduct quality assurance checks, and review consultants’ outputs.

ADB committed to raising project preparation capacity

The government has identified an initial list of priority projects to be supported under the facility. An ongoing $5 million technical assistance grant is helping the government recruit experts for these projects and strengthen project management and monitoring systems in implementing agencies.

“The seriousness and dedication with which the government has taken this BBB program is really commendable,” said Richard Bolt, ADB Country Director for the Philippines. “ADB is committed to boosting the Philippines’ capacity in preparing these projects and managing the risks to help ensure Filipinos across the archipelago benefit from the country’s strong growth.”

The IPIF builds on ADB’s experience in supporting the government’s effort to restructure the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Center for the Philippines in 2011. The bank also helped the government set up a project development and monitoring facility, which provided assistance in identifying, developing, and financing bankable PPP projects.

Based on ADB’s estimates, projects to be developed under the IPIF will add as much as $10 billion to the country’s gross domestic product between 2019 and 2024.

“Proper infrastructure allows people access to work, markets, education, health care, housing, and other services that will lift their standards of living. It also boosts business potential and economic opportunities especially in rapidly growing areas. This project will help the Philippines realize its potential and remain competitive,” said James Leather, ADB Principal Transport Specialist.

Rosemarie Marquez is a Senior External Relations Officer in ADB’s Philippine Country Office. Learn more about ADB’s work in the Philippines.