MANILA -- Private sector support is vital to the implementation of infrastructure projects that will improve the worsening traffic situation in the country's major cities.

Public Private Partnership (PPP) Center of the Philippines Legal Services Director Frances Yani Domingo said the investment of the private sector is needed in the construction of new railway systems, integrated transport terminals, among others.

“The private sector can bid for unsolicited proposals. Transportation projects of local government units (LGUs), integrated terminals and rehabilitation of existing train assets can be an option for the private sector,” Domingo said during the 2nd Annual Philippines Energy and Infrastructure Forum held Thursday in Makati City.

She said amendments to the Public Service Act will help entice more investments in the country as this will lift restrictions on foreign ownership of the transportation industry as well as other public utilities.

For his part, Jose Regin Regidor, research fellow of the National Center for Transportation Studies at the University of the Philippines, urged the private sector to invest in intelligent transport systems to help ease traffic congestion in the country.

“A lot of intelligent transport systems can be applied in our cities, whether in land, air or maritime,” Regidor said.

He proposed that a congestion pricing scheme similar to the Electronic Road Pricing System (ERPS) in Singapore to manage traffic congestion. The ERPS charges motorists when they use priced roads in Singapore during peak hours.

“The EPRS is something worth discussing and venturing in by the private sector,” Regidor said.

He further said the Philippines must develop a robust railway network to promote ease of movement of people, goods and services.

“We have to rationalize and optimize our logistics network. The regional railway for the Philippines is quite important. We are already behind a lot of our neighbors in terms of railway,” he said.

Philippine National Railways (PNR) Chairman Roberto Lastimoso said the agency is pursuing the rehabilitation of its railway line from North Harbor to Calamba set to be completed by the third or fourth quarter next year.

“Once this is completed, goods for delivery can already be loaded on trains, thus reducing traffic in Metro Manila,” he said.

The Duterte administration is pushing for a hybrid form of public private partnership (PPP) scheme wherein the government will build the projects and later bid out its operations and maintenance to the private sector to fast-track the implementation of infrastructure projects.

Funding for the projects will come from a mix of sources such as bilateral loans, official development assistance and government funds.

Through the Build, Build, Build program, the government aims to allocate PHP8 trillion to increase infrastructure spending to 7 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) from the current 5 percent within the term of President Duterte. (PNA)