When the COVID-19 Pandemic hit, the world screeched to a halt. “Now is the time to act as one, build as one,” according to Philippine Constructors Association (PCA) President Engr. Wilfredo Decena, “What we need is a synchronized effort of both public and private sectors to win this war against COVID-19 and rise again as a stronger nation.” 

 

COVID-19 response under Engr. Decena’s leadership

“Growing as the fastest among all sectors at an average of 10 percent annually in the past five years, and considered also the country’s biggest employer providing work to more than 4.2 million Filipinos – accounting for 10% of the total workforce, the construction sector had to make an abrupt stop and instead headed for an unprecedented contraction along with the outbreak of the COVID-19. 

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Photo courtesy: PCA Official Facebook Page

 

“Having planted a transformative and forward-looking agenda, we were able to quickly re-engineer its plans to immediately respond to the needs of the industry and the nation. Its online forum – PCA Talks – became the go-to venue for information about the industry amid the pandemic. 

“The association also accelerated its digitization program, maximizing online platforms to reach its members. This enabled faster mobilization, especially during Typhoons Rolly and Ulysses in the last quarter of 2020. And as PCA celebrated its 75th anniversary in December, despite the challenges, the association was able to accomplish its 8-point agenda for the year,” he added.

 

Equipping workers with essential skills and digitization for the future of Philippine construction

 

Engr. Decena stated that “the PCA has been anticipating the challenge of the increasing shortage of skilled workers– an existing global concern long before the Pandemic began.” This challenge exacerbated the toll on workers and contractors alike with the increasing workforce shortage, strict quarantine protocols, and the migration of workers back to their home provinces in the first half of 2021.” 

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Photo courtesy: PCA Official Facebook Page

 

As part of the 10-year construction industry roadmap, the PCA has worked with the Technical Skills and Development Authority (TESDA) for the development of the training regulation for Building Information Modeling (BIM). In addition, they have also supported the digitization of the Philippine Construction Accreditation Board’s (PCAB) license processing, completed in just two (2) months during the quarantine in 2020. 

 

 

” As we emerge from the crisis, we need to embrace processes and technology to make us more productive. Productivity and Sustainability are two of the four pillars of the Philippine Construction Industry Roadmap– that has Digitization and Modernization as one of the Action Plans.”

 

Workers’ protection, vaccination, and COVID-19 response

“Pooling the resources of the association and its member firms, PCA was able to assist in building quarantine facilities.” Engr. Decena also stated that it led to the formulation of health and safety protocols for the construction sector to convince the government to allow the resumption of work at the construction sites.

In ensuring the protection of worksites, workers, and the community as a whole, the PCA urged for the industry’s workforce to be considered “economic frontliners”, and therefore must be included in prioritized vaccination.

 

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Photo courtesy: PCA Official Facebook Page

 

At present, there has been a successful vaccination of at least 2,000 in Quezon City under the QC Protektodo Program, 3,000 under the Davao Constructors Association, a targeted 450,000 under the 1 Million Jobs project of the National Employment Recovery Strategy (NERS) Task Forces Construction and Manufacturing Workers Vaccination Program, and at least 2,000 successful vaccinations in the National Capital Region (NCR) starting from Manila, with further roll-outs targeted at Bataan, Bulacan, Cebu, Dumaguete, and across other regions in the country.

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Photo courtesy: PCA Official Facebook Page

PCA advocated for programs aimed at pandemic response including a comprehensive vaccination program for construction workers, timely payment for contractors, harmonizing health and safety protocols in all line agencies and LGUs, and addressing the issue of the rising cost of materials, most especially steel.

 

Beyond the pandemic

The direction of the construction industry is summarized into three areas: Digitization for Productivity, Automation, and Sustainable World. These three areas would shift to design manufacturing assembly. With these, the future job market envisioned an opportunity to raise the quantity and quality of jobs of Filipino construction workers.

“With 30% of global greenhouse emissions coming from the building and construction sectors, aside from cost, safety, and productivity,” he stated. “We need to also give equal importance to ensuring a greener future.”

The roadmap estimated the increase in available jobs by more than 80% over the next 10 years, from 3.9 million in 2018 (now at 4.2 million) to 7.1 million in 2030.

 

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Photo courtesy: PCA Official Facebook Page

 

With the roadmap implementation, the construction industry will develop new and improved sets of skills and professional competencies that incorporate modern technology, innovation, and digitization to greatly improve worker productivity.

“As a result, the average industry worker in 2030 can actually produce 500% more work compared to 2018, resulting in a total maximum annual value of work amounting to PHP 21.4 trillion by the year 2030. Almost 10 times larger than the PHP 2.3 trillion worth of work done in 2018.”

The Philippine Construction Industry Roadmap 2020-2030 served as their “north star”. For PCA, the private sector can keep the gears moving, but the government must lay down the Master Development Plan, which is now in Congress. It should be pursued not just to rebuild, but to build a better tomorrow.

“Much has been started and done so far,” he added. “But more still needs to be done.”

 At the launch of the 10-year Industry Roadmap last June, the PCA also updated its Code of Ethics with the following values with the theme “Tatag at Tapat”, or building with integrity:

 

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Photo courtesy: PCA Official Facebook Page

 

Furthermore, he reiterated the need for strategic partnerships in attaining long-term goals for the well-being of the country. ”The role of the construction industry in building a strong and sustainable economy cannot be overemphasized. While the road to full recovery remains bumpy, at the Philippine Constructors Association, we continue with our 2021 Strategic Agenda of building our Bridge to the Future.” 

 

*edited for brevity

 

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