Passage of PPP Act institutionalizes oligarchic control of economy

HOR_Philippines

While stubborn to subsidize social security as seen in president’s veto of pension hike, govt assures businesses of humongous benefits by rushing PPP Act

Research group IBON scored the midnight passage of the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Act on third and final reading in the Lower House of Congress, saying that it deepens elite profiteering from the economy through huge regulatory risk guarantees. The group also said that the approval of the bill promotes private business in public utilities and services at the people’s expense.

Also known as House Bill 6331, the PPP Act declares as policy the recognition of the primary and indispensable role of the private sector in national development. It mandates the provision of the most fitting measures to encourage private investments in normally government undertakings in infrastructure projects and services from financing, design, construction, operation and maintenance.

According to IBON, towards even more investor-friendly terms, the PPP Act reinforces the Alternative Dispute Resolution which provides for alternative avenues outside of court to settle disputes or conflicts between government and project proponents. It will also restrict the mandate of courts and regulatory bodies, the remaining institutions assigned to defend the people from onerous arrangements, by disallowing courts from issuing temporary restraining orders, preliminary injunctions and preliminary mandatory injunctions against PPP-related acts. The PPP Act will guarantee that public funds are available to protect the commercial interests of investors. It will also form a Contingent Liabilities Fund (CLF) to be funded by foreign debt and local resources to ensure a steady source of public funds to meet government’s financial obligations arising from PPP contracts, said the group.

PPP concession agreements under the Aquino administration have been characteristic of lopsided terms such as charging on public funds the difference between notional and approved fees, right of way, and government liabilities that have not been incurred. IBON said that government has also allocated around Php123 billion of the national government budget to a handful of PPPs with the country’s wealthiest businessmen in 2015 and 2016.

The research group reiterated that despite the Act’s stipulations on the protection of public interest, transparency, fair competition and ample public information, the bill’s institutionalization, consolidation and expansion of PPP reforms begun by Aquino are set to undermine public interest even more.

IBON pointed out that while government is stubborn to subsidize social security as seen in the president’s veto of the pension hike, it assures businesses of humongous benefits by rushing the PPP Act, thus betraying the Aquino administration’s pro-elite bias.

The group also noted that the timing of the approval just before the start of the electoral campaign period raises suspicions that the hasty passage of such a pro-oligarch law is connected to the upcoming elections.

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