This refers to an article by Prof. Carlo A. Arcilla published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer on November 1, 2015. Prof. Arcilla raised some important concerns. While we look more closely into other details cited by Prof. Arcilla, please allow us to provide more background information and make a few clarifications on the evaluation and approval process of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

1. The Flood Management Masterplan for Metro Manila and Surrounding Areas was developed and subsequently approved by the NEDA Board based on data and information available at the time of evaluation. The master plan was initiated in 2011 by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to holistically address flood risks in Metro Manila and its vicinity. The master plan, initially developed by consultants through official development assistance, was subjected to review by flood management experts in the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), underwent review and discussion by the NEDA Infrastructure Committee or INFRACOM, which is tasked to oversee the country’s infrastructure development plans and policies, and benefitted from inputs from international and local flood management experts, before being brought to and subsequently approved by the Board of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) on September 4, 2012.

2. The master plan provides policy directions and guides the development of specific projects, each of which will have to go through separate evaluation processes. The flood management master plan serves as a general blueprint for flood management programs and projects in Metro Manila and its vicinity. As a holistic plan, it provides policy directions and guides the design for a set of specific flood management projects. The master plan consists of several programs and projects that may be considered for implementation until 2035. Each of these specific components and projects under the master plan, however, will have to go through rounds of review and evaluation at different levels.

3. Components of the master plan are subject to further refinements. Considering that the master plan is to be implemented over a long period until 2035, during which changes and unforeseen events may transpire, components or projects under the plan may be revised accordingly. Costs and components in the masterplan are indicative and are subject to adjustments, both major and minor, depending on new information that may become available in the process. We note, for instance, that at the time that the flood management master plan was being developed in 2011, data from Project Noah (National Operational Assessment Hazards) of the Department of Science and Technology, which was just launched on July 6, 2012, were not yet available. Nonetheless, during the INFRACOM deliberations, DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson said that some of the principles of the Project Noah would be adopted. It was understood that in the conduct of feasibility studies for the components of the Master Plan, other available studies and information would also be considered.

4. Individual projects stemming out from the masterplan are subject to the Investment Coordination Committee (ICC) multi-disciplinary evaluation and appraisal process before the NEDA Board deliberates on them. Any proposed project with a budget of PhP1 billion and above will have to undergo a rigorous evaluation process to determine feasibility, cost-effectiveness, and overall economic and social benefits. A specific project proposal prepared by consultants will first be reviewed by the proponent agency – in this case, the DPWH, which has its own experts in its flood management unit. Once reviewed and approved by the proponent agency, it will then be submitted to the ICC’s Technical Board, consisting of experts in different disciplines, for initial review. If deemed ready, it is then endorsed to the ICC’s Cabinet Committee. During the review and appraisal by both bodies, a project is evaluated based on six detailed analyses: technical, financial, economic, environmental, institutional, and social impacts. In this process, all assumptions are challenged and potential issues are discussed. Only when a project is deemed sound will it be endorsed to the NEDA Board chaired by the President for another round of deliberation or approval.

5. Financing of projects are not automatically done through loans, especially now that there is greater fiscal space and we have public-private partnership options. Under the ICC Financing Framework, the Department of Finance determines the source of financing for major development projects.

Notwithstanding the kind of rigor we exercise during program and project deliberations, we acknowledge that there is always room for improvement. In this respect, we welcome inputs particularly from the scientific community, to ensure that our infrastructure program is truly sound and serves the interest of the country and the Filipino people over the long term.

We would like to assure the public that we in NEDA remain committed to safeguarding the integrity of the evaluation processes of development programs and projects and that we will continue to work with and learn from various stakeholders in improving our processes.