Progress: Philippine Style

Progress: Philippine Style
By Apolinario Villalobos

If progress could also mean “growth” and “development”, then the Philippines is far from it, yet. However, if the present administration, as well as, the local and international survey firms insist on their “perception” that indeed, the Philippines is moving forward, let them dwell in their dream!

What perhaps, the Philippine government touts is the “showcase” contained in the bursting city of Manila where condos-cum-commercial structures and malls have mushroomed, staffed with underpaid Filipinos kowtowing to foreign owners, while its periphery is yes, bursting with depressed areas, squatters, in the common lingo. On the other hand, the countryside is totally left out. College and university graduates flock to Manila and one or two other major cities to add their number to the already massing unemployed. Aging and poor parents have no recourse but sell their rice fields to unscrupulous subdivision developers, reducing in the process, the source of the country’s staple food and necessitating importation from neighboring Asian countries whose rice technicians and scientists have enhanced their knowledge at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Laguna…. PHILIPPINES!

It is embarrassing, but the country’s mass transport system that should be among the marks of development are floundering, fast deteriorating due to substandard materials resulting to frequent breakdowns – that is the state of MRT, pride of the Arroyo administration. And, now under the Aquino administration, the management of the said mass transport system is found to be allegedly reeking of corruption, resulting to the booting out of its former chief, Vitangcol. Embarrassingly, the present administration has literally applied the “band aid” solution to the frequent breakdowns, by welding up the cracked segments of rails!…and, for how many weeks will the welded segments of the substandard steel rails last?

As if the frequent breakdown of MRT is not enough, passengers are also clamoring for toilets in every terminal. This important facility is likewise, not found in LRT terminals. For sure their respective management will defensively declare that there are toilets, but where are they located? This facility is supposed to be located at every terminal for the convenience of commuters. What are the high fares for, if the commuters will not be provided with toilets?

The administrations after Marcos did not appreciate the former dictator’s idea to apply a stiff control on the importation of cars, in view of the limited road space. To date, while the total length of road system remained the same, cars, both brand new and pre-used from other countries, continue flooding the local market. New cars even run with conduction stickers instead of the officially-issued plates which during the time of Marcos was prohibited. The reason?…non-availability of new plates! But who is at fault…who faltered? What happened to the budget? Are those responsible for the failure ever charged?

The current administration has approved a loan-based project to ease the traffic congestion in Manila – the subway system. It could be the longest swimming pool in the making. An expensive disaster. How can it not be expected it to fail, when even the elevated “fly-over” roads get flooded? The underpasses in front of the Manila City Hall and Quiapo cannot even be sustained by suctions of antiquated machines, how much more for the kilometers-long subway? Can we rely on the already proven graft-riddled bidding and construction systems in the country? Are the bright government officials blind to the fact that Manila is below sea level resulting to the flooding even after just a light downpour? Also, the fact that the antiquated drainage system that gets gagged by just an ankle deep flood is another major cause of flood. Add to this the already seen and experienced poor management of facilities because of the “bahala na” attitude.

And now, for a classic system, it is only in the Philippines where the public facilities change color every time a new administration assumes office. Public facilities are practically repainted to suit the party color of the new administration. Unfinished projects of the past administration become doomed, and some ongoing projects are stopped, with structures ripped down to eliminate the impression of the former authority. The Philippines indeed, has a classic example of a “build and destroy” type of government!

One big question now is, what progress will the Filipinos expect for a pitifully ailing and corrupt Republic in this part of Asia where “friendship” and “indebtedness” among government officials overshadow professionalism?

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