MANILA, Philippines - After cooling his heels for a year, former Senator Mar Roxas will have his hands full because the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) is the coordinating agency for 7 of the 11 Public-Private Partnership (PPP) contracts the government plans to roll out this year.
President Benigno Aquino named his former running-mate to replace resigned DOTC Secretary Jose "Ping" de Jesus with a month to go before the department bids out the first of the PPPs: the contract to operate Light Rail Transit 1 and Metro Rail Transit 3.
The biggest contract is the P70-billion extension of LRT-1 to Bacoor, Cavite.
DOTC’s PPP contracts also include extending LRT-2 to Antipolo, new airports in Bohol and Albay, and the expansion of the airport in Puerto Princesa. The department has also vowed to make Terminal 3 of Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport fully operational next year, after a decade-long delay.
|PPP projects under DOTC (2011)
|New Bohol airport
|Puerto Princesa airport expansion
|New Legazpi airport
|Laguindingan airport contract
|--Source: PPP Center web site
It is not the first time Roxas has served in the cabinet. He was trade secretary under presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Arroyo. Some credit him with helping the Philippines become a top destination for call centers and other outsourcing services.
If he was instrumental in that, he can use his skills to get things done at DOTC, amid criticism the department, and other agencies, are slow to implement the PPP and other programs.
"The announcement (of the PPP projects) was made November of last year," Alberto Agra, former justice secretary and now head of Forensic Law and Policy Strategies said in an interview after De Jesus’ resignation. "There were more than a hundred projects announced at that time. A lot of us expected that the bidding would start earlier rather than just next month."
"Maybe we could wait 3 more months and see where this will go," Agra said. "But I believe after the next few months, if nothing happens, maybe that is the time we should rethink and redefine the thrust and the priorities."
In 2004, Roxas topped the Senate elections with the help of his Mr. Palengke advertisements and aimed for the presidency in 2010. After former President Corazon Aquino died, triggering a wave of nostalgia, Roxas gave way to then Senator Benigno Aquino, ran for vice president but lost.
The one-year ban on appointing losing candidates to government posts expired last month.
Roxas now has P106 billion of PPP contracts to bid out and a P30 billion budget to spend, less than education, defense and public works but about the same as social welfare, health and agriculture. It is certainly more than the vice president's P185 million.