Impressive, sana!
- Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - April 24, 2017 - 12:00am

The Infrastructure presentation last week was impressive. The use of social media to spread the word around was impressive as well.

I honesty hope they will be able to carry out that massive infrastructure building program they are promising. We need all those facilities yesterday. I also hope the Duterte economic managers are not promising more than they can deliver.

But I was also disappointed with the impressive power point presentation and the You Tube version they posted on social media. It was too future oriented and neglected the present situation. Maybe it was intentional to make us forget present inadequacies. So they made us dream, which sets us up for big disappointments later.

Sure… I agree we need to dream and plan for the long term. But past administrations have done this already. Pina-asa ng pina-asa ang tao, tapos wala rin. It was wrong for that presentation to say little or nothing about the present. There are low hanging fruits in terms of half finished projects left by the last administration waiting to be completed.

Okay… I concede the long term infra projects they offered are the real solutions to the present problems. Take traffic, for instance. That mouth watering subway system is the way to go. But that subway won’t be useful for the next 10 years or more.

For one thing, the Japanese are still busy with preparations for the Tokyo Olympics. Their engineers and other technical people have their hands full until after the Olympics. They are likely to dribble this project until then.

What happens to our horrific traffic problem in the meantime? There will be close to half a million new vehicles on our streets by the time this year ends. It seems the big infra presentation neglected to tell us what they will do to address the traffic problem in the meantime.

It would have been nice if the Duterte administration, riding on the supermajority it enjoys in Congress, could promise us the emergency powers the President sought even before he took office is as good as done. It may not solve our traffic problem as effectively as we want, but at least it would remove an excuse of the transportation department for not doing enough.

A study recently made by PIDS, the government think tank, had some interesting if worrisome observations. Apparently, estimated daily losses of P2.4 billion made by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) are just half of what it really is.

According to PIDS, the annual social cost of congestion on Edsa is P5.5 billion. That includes foregone wages of passengers who come to work late and high bus operating costs in plying the congested thoroughfare.

Hopeless? Not quite. There is something the transport department can do right now but is afraid of doing: fix the bus system on Edsa.

According to PIDS, there are about 12,595 buses operating within Metro Manila and from neighboring provinces. Some 3,711 of those operate the Manila-Edsa route, while 1,632 franchised bus units ply the non-Edsa routes.

However, the 2015 PIDS study noted that bus occupancy rate within Edsa was as low as 52 percent. This means the buses plying Edsa run half-empty most of the time. Isn’t this situation crying out to be fixed by government?

If the government is afraid of dealing with bus operators by ordering a cut in authorized number of buses, let economics work. Lower bus fares. The public will love that. Bus operators will cut their units on their own.

And for good optics, the transport department should rush the completion of the LRT2 extension to Masinag, Antipolo. The superstructure is completed because the contractor, DMCI is experienced and competent to carry out the project.

 But there are no trains because there are no stations yet, no rails, no power system and no everything else. The Abaya era DOTC chopped chopped the contracts. If they gave it all to one contractor, for example DMCI, we would probably be using that extension now. But chop chop contracts allow their friends to get a piece of the pie.

 Government’s incompetence in project management is seen by all in that massive and obviously unused superstructure. Maybe because it is a long delayed project from the Arroyo and Aquino administrations, there is little interest for the transport department to see it speedily completed. This is wrong. They should quickly complete the project and claim credit for doing something the Abaya DOTC miserably failed to do.

 Our long suffering people will be more impressed with a constant flow of completed and delivered projects rather than pies in the sky. Never mind that this administration didn’t start those projects. What is important is that people can use and benefit sooner.

Davao cacao

I came across this stand in a chocolate festival at the new and old wings of the Shangri-La mall last week. This one in the new wing features chocolate from Davao. I tried a cup of the hot chocolate for P50 and it was good. I ended buying some of the tablea.

I talked to Cezar M. Lim who was running this stall and found out that the Davao chocolate industry is thriving. He said farmers are happy to intercrop cacao with coconut, ginger and bananas among other crops.

Mr. Lim claims that for an investment of about P40 per kilo, a farmer can sell his cacao for as much as P200-250 or more depending on the season and market supply and demand. 

I posted my conversation with Mr. Lim on Facebook and got a response from Gerry Baron. Gerry is the husband of one of my students when I was teaching at the then Maryknoll. Here is Gerry’s response:

Please try Magdalena’s cacao bean chocolates also. Our farm is in Magdalena, Laguna (where soil is volcanic and fertile like Davao, with Mts Banahaw and Makiling nearby), but our cacao are of the older and more delicious variety.

 Although made with simple machines and processes, a judge at the International Chocolates Awards where Malagos won awards blogged they were flavorful, “quite good” and had a cheesecake after taste. The latter he first found in Magdalena’s.

Government should give more support to farmers of this high value crop. We need to introduce our farmers to new or additional crops. With cacao, they can benefit from what looks like an insatiable world appetite for chocolate.

Consumers should try and patronize our own. Besides, with practically handcrafted local chocolates, we can be sure it’s pure dark chocolate. Those imported ones are blended with other additives to maximize profits of multinationals.

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

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