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Infrastructure was the FIBA deal breaker


MANILA, Philippines - All of us Filipinos and certainly Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Manny Pangilinan – who sponsored the country’s bid to host the 2019 FIBA World Cup and brought the entire delegation to Tokyo – were greatly disappointed when the sports organization’s global governing body decided to award the bid to China.

While the FIBA board was impressed by the Philippines’ enthusiastic presentation highlighting the Filipinos’ passion for basketball, in the end, the Swiss-based sports organization made a decision based using the head and not the heart. It’s very obvious the deal breaker was the country’s infrastructure – or more specifically, the lack of it – with China emphasizing their airports, roads and rail system, and their experience in hosting the Olympic Games and other global competitions with behemoth sports facilities to boot.

It must have been doubly frustrating for MVP, considering the fact that Metro Pacific Investments Corporation is at the forefront in urging government to fast-track road infrastructure projects that we all agree would speed up economic growth.For instance, the NLEX-SLEX road connector project that will not only decongest Metro Manila, but will also cut down travel time from the North Luzon Expressway to the South Luzon Expressway to less than 30 minutes.  As we have pointed out in our previous columns, the interminable delays and confusing changes are turning off investors, as seen in the indecision for the road project. It was originally submitted to DPWH under a build-operate-transfer scheme, then became a proposed joint venture, while another Cabinet member opined that it must go through a Swiss challenge.

Sources also said China twitted our degenerating mass transport system – and there’s really nothing we can say to counter this because it is true, the MRT is pathetic. And to think back in 2011, MPIC had already offered to take over it, setting aside $300 million for additional trains and ready to pony up another $350 million equity in MRTC. Had that pushed through, we are pretty sure the half a million commuters who rely on the MRT will not be experiencing the Calvary they have to go through every day, risking life, limb and health every time they take the sardine-packed trains because they have no other choice.

Caveat on airport privatization 

Businessman Ricky Delgado Jr. shared the sentiments of many businessmen who said they have nothing against the government’s plan to privatize the operation and maintenance of several regional airports in the country under the public private partnership program. After all, who would argue against something that would help the country attract more visitors and boost the economy as a consequence? We all know that for the longest time, the country’s airports have been suffering a very negative image, with NAIA voted among the world’s worst airports by various survey outfits.

However, Ricky Jr. cautions the DOTC against giving the winning bidder a “blank check and free reign” to do whatever it wants – at the expense of the traveling public who will then be at the mercy of the private operator. For instance, allowing the private operator to have a say in everything, including concessionaires and retail stores, airline service providers, baggage handlers and other suppliers would mean Juan Dela Cruz will ultimately pay much more for the privilege of using the airport since the costs (which obviously could get higher because of virtual monopoly) will be passed on to the passengers.

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He points to successful examples of airport privatizations such as the Gatwick and London Heathrow airports – two of the busiest in the world – which are still under the regulatory supervision of the Civil Aviation Authority, and backed by law, to regulate the private operators to make sure no abuse of market authority happens.

“Without such oversight, a concessionaire could run amok and abuse what is for all intents and purposes, monopoly power,” Ricky Jr.  stated, wondering if we have such a regulatory body in place and whether the DOTC is geared up to ensure the flag carriers and foreign carriers as well will be given fair and equal treatment. More importantly, there has to be a way for the service providers – who have been at the airports for the longest time – to be protected from arbitrary and unreasonable cancellation of their concessions. Otherwise, this could result in poorer quality of service, but higher costs for the traveling public, he reiterated.

Driverless cars: The wave of the future

European carmaker Volvo recently made the bold prediction that by 2020, no one who is riding the new Volvo XC90 will be seriously injured or killed. That’s because the XC90  – which has been under development for over a decade – is a smart car that has the technology to control steering, acceleration and braking – virtually drive itself and take over by putting on the brakes during situations when the driver falls asleep or fails to see an approaching car that is trying to beat the red light. According to studies, more deaths on the road are caused by human error, and it this human flaw the XC90 is trying to address.

According to the manufacturers, the car is equipped with all kinds of sensors that would make for autonomous driving, but initially the capability is only for slow speed driving and a human presence is still required in the driver’s seat. It is also equipped with technology that allows it to detect if a pedestrian is approaching and therefore steer the wheel to avoid hitting the person.

However, motor insurance companies are worried how the driverless cars will affect the industry which has been very lucrative, collecting $195 billion in premiums alone from US drivers. Since most accidents are caused by driver error, the risk of that happening will be greatly reduced through the smart cars – in which case, will there be any need for car insurance? Definitely, the advent of driverless cars will change the equation, industry players admitted.



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