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?

Consistency

Consistency

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

By its meaning, consistency is also about stability, reliability and dependability. It adds up to the character and integrity of a person, project or program. For the layman or man on the street, it is simply about  “maintaining” of what has been initiated for a project or program, or continued show of righteousness by a person. Many reputable names of persons and projects have been ruined because of inconsistency.

 

In the Philippines, this word is best used in describing politicians and government projects. With the onset of electoral campaigns, candidates vie for bigger attention by making promises. When they finally made it to the position they campaigned for, they suddenly developed amnesia and their once affable personality, suddenly turned sour. As for the public structures, during ribbon cuttings, whisky bottle breakings, and whatever ceremonies, these projects are well-maintained, well-kept…but years hence, whatever colorful paints they once sported became ugly flakes. Saplings of hardy woods that saw colorful ceremonies for “green programs”, complete with mock “planting” executed by politicians and government officials in native barong attire or white slacks and white long- sleeved shirt, wilt just after a few months due to neglect.

 

In Manila, the four airport terminals are in such a sorry state that they are often subjects of criticism by travel bloggers, especially, the cramped Terminal 1. Despite the billions of pesos budget for their rehabilitation, no admirable result could be discerned, yet. The Terminal 1 still suffer from intermittent breakdown of airconditioning units. Despite the presence of some indoor plants, the feeling of crampiness is still there. The whole area is still small by international standard. The Terminal 2 is not without its own disliked character due to neglect. The terminal’s lone escalator has been inutile for more than a year as of this writing. Most plants are not regularly watered resulting to their miserable wilting. Some male urinals are clogged for a long time now with most of the sensors not working.

 

The bridges that lead to Quiapo and Sta. Cruz districts of Manila City are just intolerable, especially, the Quezon Bridge, part of which has been turned into some sort of a toilet that reeks with human waste and urine. During the administration of Mayor Lim, the illuminating ceremonies of the two structures hugged the front pages of dailies. The street lights were imported from China, made of colorful plastic materials which did not stand the onslaught of heat, rains and worst, typhoons. Bulbs were stolen by disreputable citizens who thought they could use them at home. Today, practically, the bridges are bare…the multi-million peso plastic streetlight structures gone for good.

 

The lengths of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) system and Light Rail Transit (LRT) system were once magnificent with the plant boxes underneath them. They were unfortunately subjected to whimsical designs of whoever sits as mayor of districts that they traverse. If the mayor is fond of plants, the boxes are filled with different varieties. If the mayor has no penchant for any arboreal undertaking the plant boxes are sadly neglected, left to accommodate unwanted grass.

 

The span of the Roxas Boulevard once attracted hordes of afternoon strollers due to food stalls that sell refreshing snacks and drinks, benches and later, light musical entertainments that spilled until nighttime. When a new mayor took the post, all those were practically disallowed, the reason for which was that the boulevard became hangouts of robbers and pickpockets. Today, the promenaders make do with what benches are left.

 

The poor Pasig River that should have been “rehabilitated” long time ago yet, also become victim of political whims. Fund raising campaigns that also were favorite publicity items have become things of the past. Common sense among the concerned agencies and government officials did not prevail, when they looked for options to unclog the city and national roads of the Greater Manila Area with traffic. Although, there is an effort now to revive the ferry system, thanks to the initiative of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), it seemed inadequate due to limited extent of its service. And, the question is, will it be consistently operated?

 

Government agencies that become subjects of criticisms, especially, if these caught the attention of both the print and broadcast media, try their best to rectify what have been noticed. Image-improvements would be made for as long as they are subject to constant checks, unfortunately, when finally the media get tired of playing big brother, they go back to their old “attitude”.

 

Groups who profess to be concerned about the state of nature, such as the coastal areas, the waterways, the air, and the mountains, would arrange for press conferences during which they divulge their plans as their share in “healing” the sick Mother Earth. So on a weekend, usually, Sunday, fun runs would be held for this mission.  At times, groups clad in t-shirts screaming slogans would congregate in designated coastal areas, pick up plastic and other wastes in a gingerly manner – all for photo opportunities. Some even hold rallies for this cause, during which programs are held complete with speakers from the Congress or Senate. After all those, nothing is heard from these “environmentalist” groups again. What I cannot understand is the failure of these people to start this kind of advocacy right in their neighborhood where unscrupulous throwing of garbage and non-segregation of same are rampant.

 

It needs strong resolve to be consistent. As it is a foundation for any advocacy, the best way is to start with something small, something realistic that can be done without many promises. Why make the effort to impress when such can last only for a few days?…a few months?…or worse, not what is really needed by the beneficiaries?