Marcos vows to make gov’t infrastructure projects climate-proof

THE PHILIPPINES would ensure that all phases of its ambitious “Build, Better, More” infrastructure program are sustainable, climate resilient and disaster-proof, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. told the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Monday.
“As we ramp up annual public infrastructure spending to 6% of GDP (gross domestic product) consistent with the ‘Build, Better, More’ program, we will incorporate the elements of sustainability, climate resilience and disaster proofing in all phases of societal and infrastructural planning, design, construction up to operation and maintenance,” he said in a speech during his visit to the ADB headquarters in Mandaluyong City.
Mr. Marcos said this would be implemented in projects involving water supply, sanitation, energy, transportation, agriculture and other essential areas.
The Marcos administration aims to sustain infrastructure annual spending at 5-6% of GDP through 2028. In 2022, infrastructure spending was equivalent to 5.8% of GDP.
Mr. Marcos said climate change continues to pose a threat to the Philippines, along with the El Niño phenomenon and a possible major earthquake.
The Philippines had the highest disaster risk, followed by India and Indonesia, according to the World Risk Index 2022.
“If we don’t act, climate change can, will and already is unleashing nature’s fury upon our communities and our people… Climate change will be the lodestar for our integral national policies and investment decisions,” the president said.
Mr. Marcos said that in his nine-month tenure so far, there have been three strategic programs signed with the ADB, with more in the pipeline.
The government signed three ADB loans worth $1.1 billion in the first nine months of the Marcos administration.
He said the Philippine government is awaiting the release of ADB’s Country Partnership Strategy for 2024-2029, which will spell out the regional bank’s recommended medium-term development agenda for the Philippines.
The strategy’s theme, “Investing in Climate, Filipinos and the Future,” is in line with the Philippine Development Plan, Mr. Marcos said. 
He said the government is looking at the ADB as a key partner in rolling out climate-related projects.
The Philippine Development Plan identified 3,770 infrastructure priority programs and projects with an indicative total investment requirement of P17.3 trillion through 2028.
Meanwhile, Mr. Marcos said the government has sought ADB funding assistance for the proposed food stamp program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
“One of the things that is in the pipeline, that is being developed, that is going to be of great assistance to our people is the proposal by the DSWD for a food stamp program, which I’m surprised that we have never had, but it is something that we can see that has been effective in other countries,” Mr. Marcos told reporters when asked about his meeting with ADB President President Masatsugu Asakawa and other senior officials.
In February, Social Welfare Secretary Rexlon T. Gatchalian said his leadership is considering reviving the food stamp program.
Mr. Marcos said he also discussed possible partnerships on digitalization between the ADB and government agencies such as the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and the Civil Service Commission.
“Now the scope of the ODA (official development assistance) that we get through ADB has now increased and we are now talking about agriculture, re-skilling and retraining, and climate change and its mitigation and adaptation,” he said.
In 2022, the ADB was the Philippines’ top source of active ODA among 20 development partners. Its annual loan financing for the Philippines averaged at $1.4 billion from 2010 to 2022. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza