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Execute projects, not people!

Our bureaucracy is notorious for having serious problems in executing projects. They are only good up to feasibility studies. This is why political will to get projects done is very important. This is part two of my political will column started last Friday.

I told Sec. Art Tugade during his early days at DOTr that I was appointing myself as his resident nagger. He laughed and said he welcomed it. He was sure he was going to move fast enough to avoid being nagged.

 Well, here is another low hanging fruit we badly need. It is being offered to Art Tugade on a silver platter, but he seems afraid to bite. I am referring to the offer of Philippine Airlines to build an extension to Terminal 2 at no expense to the government.

The project needs the 12.9 hectares that incorporates what was formerly occupied by Nayong Pilipino where the Philippine Village Hotel is. It also needs the 9.8 hectares that is considered Pagcor property. PAL is offering a long term lease for the adjacent land for the expansion proposal.

Why is the project urgent? Despite all the talk about a totally new airport in Bulacan or Sangley, none of those new airports can be ready for use within the term of President Duterte. This means we are stuck with NAIA for at least seven or 10 more years. We cannot afford to do nothing because NAIA is already bursting at the seams, so to speak.

There was a NEDA approved modernization project for NAIA ready for bidding when Tugade assumed office. That would have made qualified private entities compete for the right to invest on improved infrastructure at NAIA as well as ultimately handle its maintenance and operations. Tugade canceled the project. Tugade seems very good in cancelling projects, but offers no replacement.

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Anyway, I also know NAIA most urgently needs a second parallel runway. But that requires massive amounts of political will that I know this administration doesn’t have.

I am supporting the proposal of PAL because it is the easiest project to implement that will provide some comfort to harassed passengers waiting for delayed flights in the presently congested terminals. Some political will is needed, but well within the authority of President Duterte.

A stumbling block to the proposal is Pagcor. There are apparently some arguments about what PAL is paying as agreed in a previous deal. Then there is the old Philippine Village Hotel whose old owners, or those who took over their rights, are asserting their rights over the property.

It doesn’t take that much political will for President Duterte to tell Pagcor to shut up and just let PAL do the project. They can argue over compensation even as construction goes on.

As for Philippine Village Hotel, government should just expropriate the property and deposit a reasonable amount in escrow while they argue about how much the deal really costs. The important thing is to break ground and get things going.

Tugade is said to be close to President Duterte and by that, I assume he can tell his former classmate and friend he needs presidential assistance to move the important project. Tugade should not let the proposal sleep at the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) like many projects in the old transport department.

And if Tugade is afraid that people may say PAL is getting too good a deal, the proposal can be considered an unsolicited proposal and subjected to a Swiss Challenge. But do it right away. Time’s a-wastin’! Whoever builds that extension doesn’t really matter as much as it gets built right away.  

On the bright side, something we have long waited for moved under Tugade’s watch. I finally got my driver’s license card last week at LTO’s Tiendesitas branch. The internet connection was not working when I arrived so there was a long line of people waiting for it to start working.

That was no problem for me because I spent the hour or so it took for the internet to get back to walk around Tiendesitas as I tried to meet my daily 10k FitBit steps. I understand LTO is required to get their internet connection from the mall owner.

Unless Ortigas and Company can provide top internet connection, I suggest they allow LTO to get their own. LTO needs BPO quality internet connection to be able to render the public service expected of them. At least the LTO staff handled the crowd of people waiting to be served with utmost courtesy. No fixers!

It took a while, but Tugade ought to be congratulated for being able to deliver actual license cards again. Jun Abaya simply messed the system up during his watch.

The DOTr guys issued the first license card to Tugade and they tweeted the fact proudly. I tweeted back asking if they first gave Tugade a driving test because he has never driven a vehicle in his life.

DOTr PR staff didn’t know their boss doesn’t drive. They tried to do damage control and claimed it was just “ceremonial”.

Hopeless people! If they knew their PR, a good ceremonial alternative is to pick anyone who has lined up for a license that day and give him the honor of getting the first card. But that means they skip the opportunity to brown nose their boss. Mga sipsip!

A few more loose ends at LTO for Tugade’s attention: they have been charging car registrants for a sticker they have not delivered for years. I see no value in that sticker, but now it is also official robbery. It should just be discontinued and money paid over the last three years reimbursed during next year’s car registration.

Then there is the matter of the car plates. It was suspicious for the Roxas-Abaya DOTC to award the deal to a group that produced the car plates abroad even in the absence of a budget. The case is now stuck at the Supreme Court. 

It is insulting for Roxas and Abaya to think we are so backward and cannot do a simple metal stamping project even if there are supposedly security features involved. Tugade said he would get the appropriate stamping machine and do everything here. I wonder when this plan will bear fruit.

 I realize it is not easy to do things in government. But anyone who accepts a top government position cannot use the Procurement Law as the excuse to do nothing fast. The challenge is how to get projects done given everything, including interference from congressmen, that hinders delivery of essential infra projects.

Budget Secretary Ben Diokno reassured us when he first talked about Build Build Build that they have addressed the problems. So, why are we having these problems and hearing the same excuses now? 

If the Duterte administration has the political will to kill defenseless teenagers, it should be easier on the conscience to have political will to execute projects, not people.

The economy’s growth hinges on Build Build Build being executed flawlessly, or the economy can flounder. If the economy flounders, what else can Duterte point to as justification for his increasingly brutal reign?

 Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

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