Interview: Michael Cosiquien
How can public-private partnerships (PPPs) help expand the construction industry?
MICHAEL COSIQUIEN: We see PPPs as balancers. Through PPPs, the construction industry is able to balance business with the continued improvement and application of engineering and construction competencies. Right now, the building sector has the biggest concentration of PPPs. These projects cater to all types of economic segments and they benefit everyone in the industry, from suppliers to designers and subcontractors. They even raise engineering standards. The PPP model is new to the country, so most of the relevant government organisations are still studying all aspects of a project, especially as the current administration stresses accountability and transparency.
What are the pros and cons of transitioning from residential condominiums to big-ticket projects?
COSIQUIEN: The only difference in terms of construction is that a residential project takes place in one area, whereas large infrastructure projects usually occupy a larger area. Thus, they require added services like traffic management. The Philippine construction sector had not experienced this kind of growth in the past. Now given the robustness of the property market, all kinds of projects are going up at the same time. The number one challenge for large infrastructure projects is finding the right people. Hopefully, as standards have also been raised, the progress of PPPs will generate a shift in education to focus on engineering. The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority is one of the government agencies working closely with the construction sector. Megawide has begun reaching out to them about implementing more construction-related training programmes.
How have new technologies and innovative building techniques affected the sector?
COSIQUIEN: In order to sustain current activity we must utilise technologies that accelerate efficiency or promote sustainable practices. One example includes transitioning from wooden ply for formworks to plastic that can be used multiple times. These investments are expensive, but they are greener and eventually contribute to efficiency and productivity. There was hesitation at first from clients as the perception was that LEED-certified buildings are more expensive and most businesses which claim to be green do not actually implement eco-friendly practices. In the Philippines, whenever a project faces delays, the solution has traditionally been to bring in more people, not to change the methodology. Companies now adopt new technologies to move away from traditional methods, integrating green technology and attracting more clients to green building while involving them in design.
Precast concrete is one example of innovative technology. We opened the first plant of its kind in the country in 2010. With it, we are able to deliver higher quality construction in a shorter amount of time. We also have our own concrete batching plant. These allow us to pursue continued innovation since we experiment with different concrete mixes and designs.
What PPP infrastructure projects present the highest value proposition and potential?
COSIQUIEN: We are looking to partner with the government on any opportunity, whether in energy or infrastructure, and to strengthen our core competency. Banks have been very supportive with funding. I think the most significant development will be the Department of Education’s classroom programme. Presently there is a backlog of 60,000 classrooms in the Philippines and we wish to change that. In terms of infrastructure, Cebu will certainly benefit from the Mactan-Cebu International Airport project. Connectivity in southern Luzon through the Cavite-Laguna Expressway will also be improved. The government should consider rolling out more health infrastructure projects like the Philippine Orthopedic Centre, though political issues surrounding such projects must first be addressed.
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