Philippines entering ‘golden age for logistics infrastructure’

3/14/2017

Major investment in transport infrastructure will boost the Philippines’ economic growth and enable new links to neighbouring countries and between the archipelago’s islands under the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, according to a key government power broker.

Opening the Philippines Ports and Shipping 2017 conference last week, Arthur P Tugade, secretary for the Department of Transportation, said the Duterte administration was focused on pushing forward much-needed transport infrastructure investment as part of a “build, build, build” policy.

For example, in April a new ro-ro service will be launched linking the port of Bitung in Indonesia to the ports of Davao and General Santos in the Philippines. But Tugade said this would just be the start of “a golden age for infrastructure” and transport which would boost economic growth, trade and prosperity.

He told delegates the government had committed US$140 billion to a six-year infrastructure investment programme that would see the construction of new road and rail links in Luzon, including to the ports of Manila, Batangas and Subic Bay. Congestion in Metro Manila would also be reduced by building up barge connections between Manila and Batangas.

“We know that until and unless infrastructure is in place, the development and growth promised by the president to the people will be slow or, worse, will stagnate,” he told delegates. “The construction of roads and bridges will not be limited to Metro Manila but also other islands such as Visayas and Mindanao.”

The Philippines currently has just 70km of operational rail track, but Tugade said new rail lines would be built across Luzon and Mindanao to enhance mobility and connectivity. He also insisted airports would be upgraded to improve safety and cargo flows, while the new Indonesia-Philippines ro-ro link would serve as “a business model for other ports in the country and links to other countries”.

He added: “We must make it work. We are also looking at how we can get involved in China’s Maritime Silk Road to improve our connectivity to other countries. Our policies will also be co-ordinated.

“When we establish ports and airports, we will make sure that they are connected by roads. There is no point having a port with no roads, which has happened in the past. Intermodality is what we want.”

Tugade continued: “People say we’ve heard this before and plans don’t lead to action. But president Duterte supports us and this will all happen in the next five years.”

And, after years of corruption in the Philippines on major infrastructure projects, he said the current administration would take a strict zero-tolerance approach. “We will be unforgiving on corruption,” he added.