We all want to move on and recover from the deep economic scars inflicted by the COVID 19 pandemic.
We have survived and have learned to live with this virus and will hopefully soon develop natural resilience the way we can routinely handle the common cold.
However, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has sparked a dangerous geopolitical conflict that is radiating economic shock waves across the interlinked economies of the world, hitting the country with high fuel prices and inflation that has further added to the daily burden of all consumers and business enterprises.
In this complex environment the government has aptly avowed to focus on economic recovery in response to the most urgent concerns of a people who are striving to make up for three years of difficult disruption and needs an empowering ecosystem to pursue their dreams of prosperity to which government is duty bound to deliver.
Responsive policy making is very critical in this mission to accelerate the velocity of economic growth in an inclusive, sustainable, and people centered approach, and, to be responsive entails an accurate appreciation of the problems and the potential of drivers of the economy, which is the private sector.
It is very encouraging President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has been engaging the Private Sector Advisory Council wherein the country’s industry leaders in the infrastructure sector have vowed support for the execution of infrastructure programs of the administration.
The state of Philippine infrastructure has been one of the uncompetitive factors for attracting foreign investments.
We need to build a robust manufacturing industry that would create millions of quality jobs for our skilled and young workforce instead of losing to other countries with job opportunities that are often less optimal for their qualifications.
The country’s digital, transportation, and power infrastructure are key indicators of competitiveness.
The 2022 annual global competitiveness report of the International Institute for Management Development Yearbook ranked the Philippines 48th out of 63 economies which is a four-step improvement from the previous year but for five years remains second to the last among 14 countries among Asia-Pacific neighbors.
Anyone who has visited other Asian countries will immediately feel how better infrastructures are and how nice it is to do business and be a tourist.
Coming back to our old airports, traffic jams, connectivity issues are often frustrating reminders of how our infrastructures are below global standards.
The PSAC and The Anti-Red Tape Authority have jointly called for the issuance of an Executive Order to institutionalize the ARTA Telecommunications Sector initiatives that took effect through Joint Memorandum Circulars that have resulted in substantial increase in telecommunications towers but must be further sustained to catch up with a backlog delayed by decades of red tape.
More than the JMC guidelines to speed up permits and licenses to build digital infrastructure, the proposed EO should adopt provisions of Republic Act 11494 of the Bayanihan to Recover Act in Section 4 “Undertaking measures in partnership with appropriate internet and communication service providers in the acceleration of the deployment of critical Information and Communications Technology infrastructure” and authorizing measures for the “Temporary suspension of requirements to secure permits and clearances for the construction of telecommunications and internet infrastructure”;
“Streamlining of regulatory processes and procedures for the development and improvement of digital, internet and satellite technology infrastructure”; and directing all government agencies and LGUs to “act on all pending and new applications for permit, license, certificate, clearance, authorization and resolutions within a non-extendable period of seven working days.”
Furthermore RA 1194 directs “the DPWH and other government agencies to expedite the implementation of infrastructure programs and projects to generate local employment and stimulate the local economy”; that “infrastructure flagship projects identified by the National Economic and Development Authority shall be fast-tracked to pump prime the economy and help promote national economic recovery; all permits and licenses including local government permits, licenses, clearances and registration requirement for infrastructure flagship projects shall be deemed waived for a period of one year; permit requirements relating to environmental laws, health and occupational safety shall continue to be applicable and subject to a processing time of seven working days; that all laws requiring the permits waived under this provision shall be deemed amended during this one (1)-year period of fast-track development.”
Adopting these provisions to the Executive Order being pushed by PSAC and ARTA, and extending these to all critical infrastructure such as land, air, and maritime transportation, will address the bureaucratic blockades that have been suppressing our potential to be a robustly prosperous nation endowed with rich natural and human resources with the skills and driving spirit to excel.
This “Critical Infrastructure EO” may prove to be the President’s developmental legacy that will be valid beyond the myopic 6-year political timeline.