Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. is pushing anew for the passage of his proposal to institutionalize and strengthen public-private partnerships to encourage more private sector participation in the government’s public infrastructure and development projects. Speaker Belmonte said his recently filed House Bill 163, or the proposed “Private-Public Partnership Act,” would fulfill this goal by amending Republic Act 7718, otherwise known as “An Act Authorizing the Financing, Construction, Operation and Maintenance of Infrastructure Projects By the Private Sector, and For Other Purposes,” to further strengthen the basic legal framework in undertaking PPP projects.
During the 16th Congress, Belmonte filed a similar measure, House Bill 3951, which was substituted by HB 6331 and hurdled plenary approval but was not enacted into law due to lack of material time. The House committees on appropriations then chaired by Rep. Isidro T. Ungab (3rd District, Davao City), public works and highways then chaired by Rep. Ronald M. Cosalan (Lone District, Benguet), and ways and means then chaired by Rep. Romero S. Quimbo (2nd District, Marikina City) endorsed the bill for plenary approval.
Speaker Belmonte said in 1990, the Philippine Congress enacted RA 6957, the first Build-Operate-Transfer law in Asia, which was further amended by RA 7718 to provide for an increased number of variants of BOT contractual arrangements.
“The BOT law has significantly increased private investment in infrastructure in the country by promoting private sector participation. Two decades after the passage of RA 7718, however, there is a need to further amend the law to create an enhanced policy framework that is responsive to the current economic environment,” said Speaker Belmonte.
In identifying the needed reforms in the law, Belmonte said the bill seeks to build from the experiences of the government in areas involving BOT projects.
House Bill 163 provides it is the declared policy of the State to recognize the indispensable role of the private sector as the main engine for national growth and development, create an enabling environment for Public-Private Partnerships (PPP), and provide the most appropriate incentives to mobilize private resources for the purpose of financing, design, construction, operation and maintenance of infrastructure projects and services normally financed and undertaken by the government. Such incentives, aside from financial incentives as provided by law, shall include provision of liberalized government regulations and procedures in support of the private proponent.
Speaker Belmonte’s bill defines “Public-Private Partnership” as a contractual arrangement between the implementing agency and the project proponent for the financing, design, construction, operation, and maintenance, or any combination thereof, of an infrastructure facility, in which the project proponent bears significant risk, management responsibility, or both.
It provides that PPP Projects may be undertaken through any of the following contractual arrangements: build-and-transfer; build-lease-and-transfer; build-own-and-operate; build-operate-and-transfer; build-transfer-and-operate; contract-add-and-operate; develop-operate-and-transfer; joint venture; operations and maintenance contract; rehabilitate-operate-and-transfer; and supply-and-operate. Other variations may be allowed upon prior approval by the Investment Coordinating Committee (ICC).
Priority projects that will be implemented under the Act shall be consistent with the Philippine Development Plan or its equivalent at the local level. The implementing agencies shall submit their list of PPP projects or any update thereto to the PPP Center for Information. Each proposed PPP project to be implemented shall be subject to the approval of the Approving Body.
The PPP center shall ensure that Congress and the general public are provided with adequate, timely and relevant information pertaining to these priority projects. The release of proprietary information, which shall be defined in the IRR of the Act, is not contrary to existing laws.
The bill also contains provisions pertaining to: unsolicited proposals; public bidding of projects; private legal assistance; contract termination; issuance of administrative franchise, license or permit; expansion or extension of an existing infrastructure facility; prohibition on the issuance of Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) or injunction; investment incentives; projects of national significance; exemption from payment of transfer taxes; institutionalization of PPP Center; PPP Governing Board; PPP Center executive director; mandatory inclusion of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms in PPP contracts; penal provision; risk sharing and funding of contingent liabilities; miscellaneous provisions; Joint Congressional Oversight Committee; transitory provision and implementing rules and regulations (IRR). (HREP-MAPRS)