President Rody Duterte, despised by his critics as a provincial politician who does not have a grasp of a sound national development program, has approved the implementation of P440-B worth of infrastructure projects in just a little over four months.

On Monday, President Duterte presided over the board meeting of the National Economic Development Authority and approved the implementation of eight major projects, including the over 500-kilometer Bicol Railway Project which would revive the train service from Metro Manila to Matnog, Sorsogon.

NEDA Secretary General Ernesto Pernia presented for the NEDA Board's approval nine projects, eight of which were immediately approved in less than 1 hour.

The eight projects which were approved Monday during the NEDA board meeting at the Aguinaldo State Dining Room where the Cabinet meetings are usually held, had a total cost of P270-B.

Along with other major projects approved during the first NEDA board meeting on Sept. 14 amounting to P171.4-B, the total amount of projects given the Go signal by President Duterte now total P441.1-B.

In a statement issued yesterday, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the Neda Board approved the following projects:

– Second Cordillera Highlands Agricultural Resources Management Project or CHARMP2 which involves projects to address rural poverty in the Cordillera Provinces including Benguet, Mt. Province, Kalinga, Apayao, Ifugao and Abra;

– Expansion of the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) which would see the construction of more farm to market roads all over the country;

– Improvement or widening of General Luis-Kaybiga-Polo-Novaliches Road to Valenzuela City;

– North-South Railway Project – Southline which would resume the train service from Manila to Matnog, Sorsogon using new rails and new trains;

– Malitubugo-Maridagao Irrigation Project, Stage 2 to irrigate over 5,000 hectares in the provinces of North Cotabato and Maguindanao;

– Establishment of the New Nayong Pilipino at Entertainment City;

– Improvement or widening of road from Quirino Highway, Quezon City to General MacArthur Highway;

– Construction of the New Cebu International Port;

- Completion of five airport projects all over the country.

The Chico River Pump Irrigation Project which was also submitted for discussion at the meeting was deferred because of concerns on the sustainability of the electric-powered pumping system proposed by the National Irrigation Administration.

President Duterte questioned outgoing NIA Administrator Florencio Padernal how the proposed electric-powered pumping project would be reconciled with his policy on Free Irrigation.

NIA admitted that the cost of irrigating per hectare using the electric-powered pumps would be P5,000 which is very high considering that most farmers only earn about P30,000 per harvest.

It was suggested that the Chico River Irrigation project be reconfigured taking into consideration the use of solar power or hydro power in pumping the water from the river to a dam 30 meters high.

The presidential spokesperson also said the Neda–Investment Coordination Committee (ICC) will handle the processing China-assisted projects.

The implementation of the projects is expected to boost the economy of the country and provide jobs to thousands during their implementation.

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