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‘Build, Build, Build’: A Duterte legacy for the ages

President Duterte has always put the interest of the Filipino people foremost in his governance. He would always stress that he was the people’s servant. Perhaps it is that humility, despite being the most powerful man in the country, that has truly endeared him to the Filipino people.

He is also one leader who has high hopes for his nation. He wants a country that accorded the same opportunities to its people, regardless of social status, gender, ethnicity, or religion. He truly wants to make an impact on people’s lives by improving Filipinos’ state of living.

In order to realize his dream for the nation, President Duterte laid out a massive infrastructure project, the “Build, Build, Build” whose goal is to attract investments, generate jobs, and spur economic growth. Its aim is also to connect Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, and spread development opportunities, especially to the countryside.

“Build, Build, Build” was a highly ambitious program. In 2017, the first full year of the Duterte Administration, the government budgeted around 5.4 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for infrastructure development. Five decades prior, the government’s infrastructure spending only averaged at 2.4 percent of GDP.

Moreover, it mobilized the largest workforce in Philippine history—6.5 million Filipinos—to implement an infrastructure plan consistent with the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity that aims to facilitate flow of capital, goods, and people nationwide in every region in the country.

Six years won’t be enough to solve all of the country’s woes, especially of a nation which has a history of chronic underspending on infrastructure. In fact, some of the “Build, Build, Build” projects were never meant to be fully constructed within the term of President Duterte, in the same way that he also continued some projects of his predecessors.

What was very clear was that President Duterte wanted the long overdue infrastructure needs of the country to be addressed, because he knew that in every meter of road, bridge, and rail we built, we open opportunities to thousands of Filipinos who at one point did not have access to hospitals, schools, livelihood and employment.

The “Build, Build, Build” team doubled efforts toward improving infrastructure development in the country, immediately completing in 2017 several key infrastructure projects, such as the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway Project (Pozurrobio Section); widening of Barkadahan Bridge; the Quezon Avenue Road and Flood Control Project; the Cagayan De Oro Coastal Road, expansion of the Laguna Lake Highway; the Governor Miranda Bridge in Davao Del Norte; the Radial Road 10, which was finally accomplished after six administrations; upgrading of the Access Road to Vayang Rolling Hills in Batanes; the NAIA Expressway; and the Runway Manila.

While these projects were completed, many others were also being constructed. No time was wasted. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Filipino workers continued building roads, bridges, and many other infrastructure projects.

Between 2016-2021 alone, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), under the leadership of then Secretary Mark Villar, completed a total of 29,264 kilometer of roads; 5,950 bridges; 11,340 flood control projects; 222 evacuation centers; and 150,149 classrooms all over the country.

Of the 29,264 kilometers of roads completed, 2,025 kilometers were farm-to-market roads; 94.99 kilometers farm-to-mill roads; 1376.26 kilometers missing links; 1,470.51 kilometers bypasses or diversion roads; 149.65 kilometers led to airports; 293.19 kilometers led to seaports; 703.54 kilometers led to economic zones; and 2,436.40 kilometers led to declared tourism destinations.

A total of 3,122.73 kilometers were maintained; 4,686 kilometers widened; and 3,591.96 kilometers rehabilitated and upgraded.

Of the 5,950 bridges, 1,366 were widened; 355 constructed; 1,805 bridges retrofitted; 1,389 rehabilitated and 297 replaced. About 738 local bridges were also built.

Among the flood mitigation structures that have been completed include the Mandaluyong Main Drainage Project, the pumping stations at Barangays Wawang Polo and Coloong, the Flood Risk Management Project for Cagayan River, the Flood Risk Management Project for Tagoloan River, the Leyte Tide Embankment Project, and the Pasig Marikina River Flood Control Project.

Also part of the DPWH’s accomplishments under the “Build, Build, Build” were the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the Marawi Transcentral Roads, which gave hope to the people of Marawi, and provided them access to basic services and goods; and the completion of 739 We Heal As One Centers, which were either mega community quarantine facilities (QF), isolation facilities, off-site dormitories, or modular hospitals with a total of 27,302 bed capacities.

Meanwhile, to improve productivity and prevent economic losses due to traffic congestion, the EDSA Decongestion Program was also implemented under the “Build, Build, Build.”

Among the major road and bridge projects that have already been completed were the Northern Luzon Expressway (NLEX) Harbor Link Segment 10; Radial Road 10; Mindanao Avenue Extension Segment 2C; Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3; Fort Bonifacio-Nichols Road (Lawton Avenue); NLEX Harbor Link C3-R10 Section; Bonifacio Global City-Ortigas Center Link Road Project; Estrella - Pantaleon Bridge; and the Binondo-Intramuros Bridge.

The EDSA Decongestion Masterplan also included the following road and bridge projects: Southeast Metro Manila Expressway C-6 (Phase 1); NLEX-SLEX Connector Road; Alabang-Sucat Skyway Connection and Ramp Extension; C-5 Southlink Expressway; NLEX Harbor Link Segment 8.2; Samar Street; NAIAX Phase II; Laguna Lake Highway; Palanca-Villegas Bridge; North and South Harbor Bridge; Kabayani Street-Matandang Balara Bridge; Homeowners Drive-A. Bonifacio Avenue Bridge; Marcos Highway-Saint Mary Avenue Bridge; Lambingan Bridge; Guadalupe Bridge; and East Bank-West Bank Bridge 2.

In every region in the country, more roads and bridges have been built. Despite these achievements, critics are still discrediting President Duterte. But no matter what detractors say, they can no longer take away from the Filipinos the hope that was reignited by these projects—which gave real opportunities for growth and development; provided better access to basic needs and social services; and established concrete efforts to unite communities and citizens.

The fact that President Duterte will end his term with a very high trust rating proves that the Filipino people were aware of all his efforts.

In all these accomplishments, the President would always give credit to his Cabinet and to the 6.5 million Filipino workers who helped turn his vision into reality. But even if he shies away from all the applause and praises, the “Build, Build, Build” is already etched in Philippine history as a Duterte Legacy.

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