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By JOHN CARLO M. CAHINHINAN

A former member of the Duterte Cabinet has questioned the effectiveness of a proposed measure that seeks to grant “special powers” to President Rodrigo Duterte to fast track the implementation of the government’s “Build, Build, Build” program.

Former Undersecretary Terry Ridon, convenor of InfrawatchPH made the remarks as the House committee on flagship programs and projects on Monday endorsed for plenary House Bill 5456 or Flagship Emergency Act of 2019 that seeks to grant President Duterte “special powers” to speed up the implementation of 100 flagship projects under the “Build, Build, Build.”

The measure authored by House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman and Albay Rep. Joey Salceda aims to complete these projects on or before 2022.

Ridon, former chair of the Presidential Commission on Urban Poor said HB 5456 said there is “nothing new” in the proposed legislation since it’s “merely a reiteration of already existing laws on procurement and eminent domain.”

HB 5456 only declares the existence of “national importance” in the immediate implementation of the flagship projects but as to the funding—the initial amount necessary for the implementation has already been placed to the budget of the concerned agencies implementing such proposal under this year’s appropriation program.

According to Ridon, what is more important at the moment is a “determination whether the financing commitments of funding agencies remain robust” amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) engulfing the world.

Ridon stressed that with the cooling of world economies due to the outbreak, it is certain that “infrastructure financing will be at risk, particularly China-funded projects.”

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