In the third quarter of 2016, Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin M. Diokno revealed that about P8.2 trillion has been allocated solely to fund the “golden age of infrastructure” over the next six years, saying that the government is now looking for more projects to expand the pipeline.
For 2017, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) was apportioned with P454.7 billion, the second highest budget after the Department of Education with P544.1 billion. That comprises more than 13% of the total 2017 budget of P3.35 trillion.
But given the funds is not a problem, will there be enough human resources to implement and build the target infrastructures?
This is now the concern of the government mainly the DPWH, who thinks that there may not be enough engineers, architects, and contractors to carry out the massive infrastructure projects.
Undersecretary Catalina Cabral of the DPWH hopes that Filipino natives who are now Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) will come home and take the technical government jobs.
However, the Philippines’ public infra arm admits that engineers and architects may not enjoy the same salary as they do abroad, but swipes that the DPWJ jobs can get them closer to home.
Ernesto de Castro, former president of Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers (PICE), suggests a solution. He wants a 2- to 3-year tax break for returning OFWs who will be working in the government’s infra projects. He cites that for engineers who earn P100,000 annually, the government cuts 30%, which is considerably huge.
Records from the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) show that more than 150,000 civil engineers and about 350,000 other engineers are registered in the country. But de Castro tells that of this amount, a huge chunk still does not have proper training to participate in public infra projects.
Another concern in the construction sector is the lack of licensed contractors interested in government projects.
Despite that there are 8,424 licensed contractors listed, former chairman of the Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board, Ramon Allado, shares that the huge contracting companies are busy with private projects and not with the government. He reiterated that they are more comfortable with that setup, so the challenge is now in the government to entice them to join and help in the infra goal.