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Road and Rail Transport Infrastructure in the Philippines: Current State, Issues, and Challenges

In this study, the analysis of quantity and quality indicators in the road and rail transport sector shows that the Philippines continues to suffer from inadequate and poor quality road and rail transport infrastructure. In most metrics of comparison with ASEAN neighbors, the Philippines is also behind in improving the quantity and quality of its road and rail transport infrastructure. The assessment of targets and achievements in the Philippine Development Plan, the Public Investment Program, and the expenditure program reveals that many of the targets were unmet. The low absorptive capacity, as indicated in unmet expenditure targets, of the major agencies in charge of the road and rail transport sector suggests problems in implementation. Digging deeper into the implementation challenges, the study finds that the persistent problems are right-of-way acquisition, financing, political intervention, weak capacity at the local government level, natural calamities, and project management issues. There were also newly introduced problems. One is the adverse effects of the pandemic on the materials and manpower supply chain, but systems for addressing these are already in place, and implementing agencies just need to continue improving the implementation of revised procedures in response to the pandemic. Another newly introduced problem is the difficulty of implementing projects under the “for later release” funds category related to Congress-introduced new budget items or budget increases. Meanwhile, the public is getting caught in the battle of wills between two major influences—the legislators and the sitting President—on budget allocation, releases, and implementation. At the national level, seeking reform champions for minimizing the Congressional introductions and fast-tracking executive approvals is necessary. At the regional level, one solution that can be attempted is for government officials to strengthen the practice of project identification and prioritization through the Regional Development Council processes.

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