A matter of attitude
- Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - February 4, 2016 - 9:00am

Delivering good public service is a matter of attitude. Is the public job a license to strike it rich by whatever means? Is it an opportunity to fix what is wrong with our system and contribute to national prosperity?

There are all sorts of attitudes and motives of people who accept a government job. I have no doubt there are many in government service who want to serve our people while nurturing a professional career. Unfortunately, the ones we often hear about are those who are up to no good.

Then there are those who are there only because they couldn’t say no to the appointing authority and by this time, these folks can’t wait to get out of government. I know some of these people, some with great reputation in their private sector careers, have given up on the mission to deliver something of substance to our people.

I have written a lot of times about the bureaucracy at DOTC and how they have disappointed the public. I got a feedback from an insider that while my observations may be true, it is not for lack of trying on their part to make things better.

Here is how someone who had worked with them feels: “I find them friendly, hardworking and kind. But as you pointed out, many people within the organization, in spite of their pedigree and excellent academic background, lack the implementation knowhow to carry through complex as well as simple projects from conception through completion.”

I have also heard stories about how middle level DOTC staff and some fresh recruits from top universities work hard to deliver long delayed projects. But, I am told, they can only do so much. In the end, projects move because top officials want these projects to move.

For example, I was told DOTC staff feverishly worked on a list of projects they can do for NAIA1 after the structural retrofitting job was accomplished by DMCI. They made a presentation to the MIAA (NAIA) Board hoping to get approval and support so they can go to NEDA for final approval if such is needed.

The major thrust of the presentation to the MIAA Board back in April 23, 2015 was related to “further improvements” at Terminal 1. They had been working on this laundry list of projects for about a year with the blessing of DOTC Secretary Abaya himself.

The plan presented was not very ambitious and was labeled as Phase 2 of a much larger program. Phase 2 involves just the front section of the terminal, providing additional departure and arrival roadways and a parking structure with direct pedestrian access to each level of the terminal.

I don’t even think they need NEDA approval to do these. NAIA gets enough money from our terminal fees and landing fees of airlines to cover the project costs.

I used Terminal 1 a few weeks ago when my PAL flight from LAX disembarked there instead of the usual Terminal 2. While I found the interior looking better than before, there wasn’t much to appreciate that looks like a billion pesos worth of rehabilitation.

Okay, so the work done by DMCI is structural retrofitting and is largely invisible. While this is good in terms of assuring passenger safety, it is also important NAIA management address other problems we have with Terminal 1.

The biggest one has to do with a very steep incline arriving passengers have to go through to get to the area where they can board their cars. I always worry an old lady trying to manage her baggage cart behind me will trip and cause the cart laden with balikbayan boxes to crash on me. I remember Mar Roxas citing this as a problem when he was DOTC Sec.

When I complained again about this problem, I was told this concern was addressed in Phase 2. But in the wisdom of the NAIA Board members, they disapproved further improvements at NAIA 1.

Why would the NAIA Board, whose members include the Secretary of Tourism and the Secretary of Finance, two people I highly respect, reject Phase 2? According to my source, the board members argued they only have less than a year to go and are not inclined to start a project they will not be able to finish. Let that be a problem of the next administration.

What a horrible attitude! I would have expected the Secretary of Tourism to fight tooth and nail to get that Phase 2 done, even if completion is beyond his watch. Maybe he did fight, but my source didn’t know for sure. The fact is, the NAIA Board rejected the start of Phase 2.

Indeed, I can’t understand why Phase 2 was not done while DMCI was working on the structural innards. Different work areas are involved anyway, and it would be good to have everything done before P-Noy leaves office. This was also the work Kenneth Cobonpue wanted to do at the prodding of National Competitiveness Council head Bill Luz. Cobonpue even made a fantastic design, gratis. Mar Roxas rejected the offer when he was DOTC Secretary, but didn’t offer an alternative.

Sec Jun Abaya also failed to show leadership in the last four years that he was DOTC’s head. I imagine he was afraid to enter the territory of this Honrado, a P-Noy favorite and relative, who was also Sec. Jun’s superior during Tita Cory’s time at Malacañang.

That’s typical of Jun Abaya. Private sector representatives who attend DOTC meetings also tell me that while they agree many in the DOTC staff are hardworking, they also have no direction. It can be seen in how they conduct meetings, I was told.

A representative of the construction industry complained to me that the meetings do not start on time. And when it happens, there is no direction as DOTC people come and go. No one seems to be taking minutes or even making a simple list of things to be done, what has been agreed upon and what are the things to do to move forward.

They often take up much the same things when they meet again on the same projects as if they had not discussed the same issues before. No wonder nothing much happened at DOTC under P-Noy’s watch. It is a problem of leadership. It is a matter of attitude.

And they have the gall to appeal for our votes for continuity?

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

ACIRC BILL LUZ BOARD BOO CHANCO DOTC JUN ABAYA KENNETH COBONPUE MAR ROXAS NAIA NATIONAL COMPETITIVENESS COUNCIL P-NOY
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