Philippines: Government vows to catch up on 2022 infrastructure spending

MANILA, Philippines — The government is bent on meeting this year’s infrastructure spending program even as expenses remain below target as of end-September.

Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Amenah Pangandaman has indicated that infrastructure spending will be achieved despite the slowdown in the first half of the year due to the national elections.

“Yes, especially at least for DOTr (Department of Transportation) and DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways), we have released a significant amount already,” she said.

Data showed that as of end-September this year, infrastructure expenses rose by 13.4 percent to P727.7 billion from P641.5 billion in the same period in 2021.

Despite the increase, infrastructure spending still fell four percent short of the P758.9-billion program set by the government.

“A lot of projects were stopped during the first semester because of the election ban,” Pangandaman said.

Similarly, the slower-than-expected disbursements for the period was due to modification of projects, unsettled right-of-way problems, intermittent weather conditions, and delays in the submission of progress billings with complete documentary requirements by contractors.

Pending deliveries from suppliers and contractors for various capital outlay projects have also resulted in lower-than-programmed disbursements.

“But then when we started with the new government, we were able to release funding because there were many requests for cash allocations,” she said.

Total infrastructure spending program for this year was set at P1.2 trillion, up by almost seven percent from the 2021 level of P1.12 trillion.

Based on the revised medium-term fiscal program, however, the program may be exceeded by 2.59 percent to P1.23 trillion as the government intended to hike spending toward the last quarter.

“We are ramping up the releases so they (agencies) can start with their projects,” Pangandaman said.

The DBM said measures are already being undertaken to fast-track the implementation of various infrastructure projects.

“The review of current processes and existing systems is also ongoing with the end goal of improving fund utilization,” the DBM said.

“DPWH has committed to accelerate implementation of its infrastructure projects to meet their spending target for the year. Concerned departments have also been working closely with its suppliers and contractors to expedite the delivery of items,” it said.

As of end-September, the remaining balance of this year’s adjusted P5.243 trillion obligation program amounts to P228.9 billion or 4.4 percent. This is composed mainly of some P74.4 billion agency specific budget and P101.4 billion special purpose funds.

The DBM said the government is confident the disbursement program for the year will be met, as spending performance by agencies continues to gather pace this quarter.

The DBM added that this year’s program could be exceeded with upside factors coming from cash transfers, COVID benefits for health workers, catch-up on infrastructure spending, transfers to LGUs, and other regular expenditures such as subsidies to government corporations.