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Hope and rebuilding in Marawi

I have always been a strong supporter of our troops. It is important to give due respect and recognition to the brave men and women who put their safety and their lives on the line all in the name of protecting the country and our people from those that would seek to do us harm both outside the Philippines and within.

That is why I was amongst Filipinos who were very happy to hear that the country’s most wanted militants, Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute, are finally dead after roughly over five months of fighting in ravaged Marawi and so many lives lost. Just earlier last week, the Philippine military was able to confirm through DNA via the Federal Bureau of Investigation that Hapilon and Maute were killed via sniper fire in Marawi City putting an end to the scourge that threatened the citizens of the city and were among the FBI’s most wanted terror suspects.

This is indeed an important victory and would not be possible without the huge sacrifices and dedication of our men in uniform. I remember the story of the young soldier who tried to save his comrades and who, when he knew he was facing death or capture, just told his commander to bomb his location. He was willing to sacrifice himself just so that he could take out some of the opposition at the same time.

Today though the tables have finally taken a turn for the better and President Duterte has declared that Marawi has been “liberated.” This is definitely a cause for celebration. We all need to thank and honor our soldiers who were brave enough to defend our country against the IS backed Maute and Abu Sayyaf terror groups who were set on establishing an Islamic State (Daesh) in Mindanao. And of course alongside our gratitude we should also commiserate and remember all the lives lost during the Marawi siege – the 200 soldiers and military personnel and the countless civilians who were caught in the crossfire. We should take this as the opportune time to extend a hand in need to the families of the fallen heroes and to those in Marawi trying to rebuild their lives.

The most pressing question of course is what happens now? This was a strong victory no doubt but there will definitely still be small pockets of resistance remaining. That is the ongoing problem in most battles against terrorists around the world. While there are leaders, these leaders are also usually not so important that they cannot and will not be replaced when lost. While I think we can celebrate that the main suspects have been taken down it’s still important to note that it doesn’t mean it is 100 percent over or 100 percent safe for Marawi just yet.

This is what the Palace confirmed also even while the pullout of troops has begun they are not discounting pocket skirmishes to continue as the military urge the last few remaining militants to surrender. The president admits that while a great victory has been won he is not removing all troops from the war ravaged Marawi until he can declare it completely safe once again. And that might take a little more time.

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Still, it is comforting to get some good news for a change. It certainly has seemed like the Philippines has had its share of bad recently and any victory will surely feel like a balm on the country’s frayed and frazzled nerves. Hopefully soon the people of Marawi can begin to focus on what comes next – rebuilding and regaining hope after this terrible time. The images of destruction from the fighting are terrible and it’s going to be a long while before these bullet-ridden buildings and fire ravaged structures can be made whole again. However, the spirit of our people is resilient and I don’t doubt that in time life will, hopefully, return to normal for those affected by this terrible fight.

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“Train to Busan” may have been a box office horror movie but it is happening regularly in the country with our horrible MRT3. Finally, after endless breakdowns and the risk of accidents the government has served notice to the maintenance provider of Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT3) that their contract will be terminated if they can’t shape up. The provider – Busan Universal Rail Inc. or BURI has been given roughly a week (seven days) to explain why its contract should not be scrapped. The company is challenging the grounds for the termination and we’ll see in the days ahead how it responds to cited poor performance, failure to procure new train parts, and so much more. 

Personally I don’t think there is any excuse for the sorry state of the MRT3. If you have ever taken it you would know that the service is deplorable and it is one accident away from total disaster. I see a sea of people waiting to board the MRT trains daily and waiting in line for hours on end because the system just can’t keep up with the demand. The worst is finally getting on the train after waiting forever only to disembark when the service breaks down – which it does on a regular basis. Overall MRT3 just has far too many glitches, broken trains, and bad management.

I hope that this is a key first step that the Department of Transportation is finally making to improve things with our MRT system as a whole. It may not have been as bad as it is now if Filipino commuters had other transportation options, but on a whole the MRT has become indicative of just how bad mass transportation is here in the country. This is a problem that needs to be addressed and soon if we ever want to make a big difference.

If we trace back so many of our current problems stem from bad public transportation (and bad infrastructure). Citizens are bemoaning the traffic situation daily and this is because there are far too many cars on the road. Too many cars causes bad build ups, which cause pollution, which in turn causes viruses and illness and so much more. In the end you can trace that back to bad public transportation. If you look in other countries in Asia, there are far fewer cars on the road because citizens have the option of taking efficient trains and other mass transit options. In fact, when traveling to Japan, Hong Kong or Singapore you can hop on a train or a bus to anywhere with no hassles.

The Philippines has a long way to go when it comes to upgrading our mass transit system to be at par with some of our Asian neighbors, but we’ll never get there if we don’t start somewhere. Hopefully fixing our MRT3 is just one of many more steps to follow.

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