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MANILA – Infrastructure spending in the first two months of 2023 rose by 22 percent to PHP145.6 billion, as the Marcos administration ramped up the implementation of its public works and transport-related projects.

The infrastructure spending performance as of end-February 2023 was higher than the PHP119.4 billion reported during the same period last year, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Consistent with the government's commitment to maintaining high investments in infrastructure over the medium term, infrastructure spending substantially increased by 22 percent from PHP119.4 billion last year to PHP 145.6 billion as of end-February 2023,” the DBM said.

“The strong infrastructure spending performance is mainly attributed to the accelerated implementation of nationwide public works and transport-related projects,” it added.

The DBM noted that the higher infrastructure spending was driven by several factors, including the construction, rehabilitation and preventive maintenance of access, by-pass and diversion roads, and bridges; flood mitigation activities; and succeeding progress billings for the construction of government buildings.

In April, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the Marcos administration is bent on reversing the "underinvestment" in infrastructure as part of its growth strategy.

Under the medium-term infrastructure program, the government aims to sustain infrastructure spending at 5 to 6 percent of gross domestic product annually and program between USD20 billion and USD40 billion per year through 2023 for infrastructure.

National government's spending performance

Meantime, the DBM said the national government disbursements stood at PHP620.7 billion, marginally higher than by 0.2 percent or PHP1 billion from the same period in 2022.

"Specifically, spending in January was flat at PHP302.4 billion relative to last year’s PHP301.5 billion. It, likewise, plateaued to PHP318.2 billion in February from nearly the same outturn last year," the DBM said.

The DBM noted that the "modest growth" in the national government's spending for the two-month period this year was due to the "increases recorded in infrastructure and maintenance spending."

"Infrastructure and other capital outlay surged to PHP113.0 billion, up by PHP30.0 billion or 36.1 percent year-on-year. This robust infrastructure spending performance was largely attributed to the higher disbursements recorded in the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) and the DOTr (Department of Transportation)," it said.

However, the decline in several expense items "dampened" the growth posted in infrastructure and maintenance expenditures, the DBM said.

The DBM said the increase in national government spending was tempered "mostly by the decline in the transfers to (local government units) with the lower National Tax Allotment shares and interest payments, as well as the timing of subsidy releases to the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation for the implementation of the Murang Kuryente Act."

Despite this, the DBM said the government spending will stay "strong" for the rest of 2023, which will peak at PHP1.465 trillion for the second quarter or 28 percent of the full-year program.

"Disbursements will remain strong for the rest of the year with PHP1,279.8 billion program in the third quarter (24.5 percent), and will accelerate further to PHP1,366.2 billion by the fourth quarter (26.1 percent). The government has set a spending target equivalent to 21.3 percent," the DBM said. (PNA)