What is Duterte building in the Philippines?
by Aileen Macalintal
A beauty pageant contestant in the Philippines was in hot water during a Q&A recently after revealing that she was clueless about “Build Build Build,” President Rodrigo Duterte’s flagship economic programme. The government reacted in a manner that people from crisis management would rate with high marks. Representatives from tourism and public works departments met with the candidate to brief her and released photos of the contestant sitting in a briefing or reading a catalogue with a cover that reads: “Building the Present and Future.” Media outlets published these photos with headlines such as: “Now she knows.”
One would wonder, however, how much she and the rest of the Filipinos actually know about this programme.
“Build Build Build” is the mega-infrastructure programme of the current president, who has been quoted saying he only wants a comfortable life for the Filipino people. News reports usually describe it as the administration’s US$167 billion or Php8 trillion project to build roads, airports, bridges, railways, and bus transits across the Philippines to decongest the Manila gridlock and elevate substandard transportation systems in the Southeast Asian country. But the programme also includes flood control and water supply projects, an agro-industrial park, IT facilities, a Metro Manila subway, a real estate development, a housing project, and even a Php97 billion “Philippine Sports City.”
President Duterte is poised to leave Build Build Build as his legacy to the Philippines, in a way that the One Belt, One Road Initiative of President Xi Jinping is to China. In a similar manner to the Belt and Road Initiative, Build Build Build is also seen as an inter-connectivity project that will facilitate better movement across the archipelago. The government claims this is aligned with the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity. Indeed, it isn’t just in the Philippines that major urban and economic developments are happening, but in the region as well. By 2025, China and six of the world’s largest economies will be located in Asia, experts claim, showing how the centre of global political economy will increasingly move away from Western Europe and North America to the Asia-Pacific region.
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