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ADB to boost PH growth with infra projects focused on Mindanao

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In the 51st Asian Development Bank (ADB) annual meeting with the theme “Linking People and Economies for Inclusive Development,” held in Manila on May 4-6, 2018, the multilateral development bank reaffirmed its commitment to eradicate poverty through achieving inclusive growth in Asia and the Pacific region. ADB announced that it will increase its funding for infrastructure projects in the Philippines while paying special attention to Mindanao.

“We want to invest more in Mindanao. To sustain peace in Mindanao, we need to develop Mindanao in a broader sense. We had a very big road project in Mindanao last year, and we also support transport (development) in Davao,” said ADB President Takehiko Nakao.

The Philippines, touted as one of Asia’s fastest growing economies by ADB, has obtained from ADB a USD380-million loan intended to expand Mindanao’s road network, as well as other key infrastructure projects under its “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program.

More than 4,000 delegates from different countries participated in the annual meeting. The delegates included finance ministers and central bank governors of ADB member countries, bankers, representatives from the private sector, civil society, academe, and multilateral institutions.

Among the issues discussed during the meeting were globalization, technology and its impact on jobs and corresponding opportunities, private sector mobilization in funding infrastructure, building climate change resilience, expanding opportunities for women entrepreneurs, and using technology to maximize the skills of aging populations to make development inclusive.

President Rodrigo Duterte said the Asian-Pacific region, including the Philippines, is fast emerging as home to the most vibrant economies in the world. “With the massive infrastructure investments, we expect Mindanao to lead in the nation’s growth. These investments shall be accompanied by intensive efforts and reforms in governance,” President Duterte said during the ADB annual meeting Saturday.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director-General Ernesto Pernia urged ADB to further support the country’s infrastructure program, especially for projects that would address Metro Manila’s traffic problem.

Easing traffic congestion in Metro Manila and other major cities, and rural development are among the priorities in the provision of support for the Philippines under ADB’s Strategy 2030.

“We need to support the Philippines metro areas, how to mitigate these traffic difficulties, and how to support the railway projects, and the LRT (Light Rail Transit) or MRT (Mass Rail Transit),” Nakao said.

There are 12 major infrastructure projects in the pipeline worth USD4.44 billion under the transportation, water utilities and urban infrastructure sub-sectors, or about 65 percent of the total ADB lending portfolio to the Philippines.

Pernia said the ADB is also providing the country USD100-million soft loan for project preparation and facilitation.

The Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program is expected to spend PHP8 trillion over the next five years.

“Many things can be facilitated by infrastructure –mobility of people, connectivity and then access to opportunities. Poverty reduction is greatly helped by infrastructure, employment generation,” Pernia said.

Nakao said the Duterte government has several agenda which are in line with ADB for the Philippines, including rural development, education, and some gender issues to empower women.

ADB extended USD16.5 billion as of February this year to finance 159 developmental projects in Southeast Asia, with the Philippines among its biggest clients cornering 21 percent (USD3.5 billion).

In the meeting, ADB bared its 10 priorities under its Strategy 2030 program, a new long-term strategy to respond to the rapid changes in the Asia-Pacific countries in line with ADB’s commitment to eradicate poverty in the region.

“We will mobilize private sector resources to meet the region’s huge development financing needs. Our private sector operations help fill market gaps and promote private sector participation in infrastructure and other development finance,” Nakao said during a session of the Board of Governors on May 5, 2018.

Nakao noted the ADB would further scale up private sector operations, widen their geographic coverage, including new and frontier markets, and expand operations in social sectors, such as health and education.

“We will also continue to promote the effective use of public-private partnerships. We will enhance resource mobilization through credit enhancement operations and co-financing with bilateral and multilateral partners. We also work with Asia-Pacific countries to build more quality infrastructure and other development projects.” Nakao said.

“ADB will help governments enhance their capacity to prepare, implement, and operate high-quality projects, and we will help raise standards globally for environmental and social safeguards, sound financial management, and anti-corruption,” Nakao said.

In the Philippines, Nakao said it is financing urban mass transport in Manila and Davao City, the railway connecting Malolos and Clark, roads and bridges in Mindanao, and clean water and sanitation projects in local communities.

Nakao cited other priorities in the Strategy 2030, including tackling remaining poverty and increasing inequalities in the Asia and the Pacific through expanded social services; accelerating progress in gender equality; and scaling up support to combat climate change by building climate and disaster resilience and enhancing environmental sustainability.

Strategy 2030 also aims to build livable cities that are competitive, green, resilient, and inclusive; promote rural development and food security; foster regional cooperation and integration; and further strengthen ADB’s role as a provider and facilitator of knowledge.

“We will continue to use our financial resources efficiently and creatively. We will expand our presence on the ground. We will dramatically modernize business processes to speed up our services to clients,” Nakao said.

Finance Secretary and outgoing chairman of the ADB Board of Governors Carlos Dominguez III said the new roadmap could help the ADB to improve its capacity to adapt to the impacts of rapid advances in digital technologies.

“ADB Strategy 2030 is a good beginning. It is not a fully developed program for fully adjusting to the new economic balance of power as well as coping with the enormous forces unleashed by technologies. That program will evolve into place but only if we are prepared to reinvent and rethink,” Dominguez said.

(In photo: ADB President Takehiko Nakao at the opening program of the 51st Asian Development Bank (ADB) annual meeting held in Manila on May 4, 2018)

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