Is Duterte getting impatient?
DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - April 10, 2019 - 12:00am

The short answer is, he should be. In a rally in Palawan, the President said: “I am in a hurry because there is only about three years left for me to correct the things that I wanted to do.”

The President went on: “I must admit that one of the reasons why I am pissed off to no end is really the way government moves. Napakatagal ho talaga. At minsan napakatagal because they purposely do it to commit graft … a very tedious process of getting the papers to the grid. There is always a monkey wrench.”

I am not sure if this is just campaign season rhetoric because frankly, the one thing that attracted me to Duterte during the last presidential election was his promise to make government move faster. I like the examples he cited of how he did that in Davao.

But running Davao City is nowhere near what it takes to run the Republic of the Philippines. Even Mr. Duterte realizes that difference belatedly, which explains why he often confesses his frustration in office.

Hopefully, the President is realizing that after three years in office, he needs to retool his Cabinet and figure out more innovative ways of making government move faster.

No, declaring a revolutionary government will not accomplish that. What use is a revolutionary government if Mr. Duterte will still work with the same Cabinet… the same bureaucracy?

Interestingly, Mr. Duterte knows what he needs. He said it himself in that campaign rally of PDP-Laban in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.

He said: “I would need a faster Cabinet and a faster bureaucracy because I am a man in a hurry. I have about three years or less… and there are things I believe I must act on para maitupad ko sa ninyo ‘yung promise ko.”

A faster Cabinet, he says. Bull’s eye!

Take that San Miguel Bulacan Airport proposal which President Duterte already approved in principle. It is still languishing in some bureaucratic black hole awaiting approval.

DOTr is supposed to come up with the terms of reference for a Swiss challenge. Last year, government said that would happen by the second quarter this year, which is now.

I haven’t heard any movement, but I heard something from DOTr that things may move by the third quarter. We are losing precious time.  We should be building that airport by now.

If the President is dreaming of a faster Cabinet, he needs faster Cabinet members. But is he comfortable appointing more qualified Cabinet members outside of his friends from Davao and San Beda Law School?

DOTr is a prime example of slow movement. This is why the President himself warned that he would order the Air Force to take over NAIA unless change for the better moves faster there. NAIA is a prime agency under DOTr.

The big problem with the President’s solution is that it is likely to create a bigger problem. The Air Force does not have what it takes to manage a modern and very busy airport whose facilities are already inadequate to meet demands of civil aviation.

Indeed, running a modern airport requires skills that may not be in great availability in this country. Mactan International Airport is running as well as it is after privatization because it is able to harness the right skills from wherever in the world it is available.

The only Filipino with any experience in running a world class airport, Singapore’s Changi no less, is already working with one of our top energy companies. Everyone else is working on a trial and error basis. We are learning from sad experiences in local airport management.

Yet, it seems NAIA officials, abetted by DOTr top brass, are just dribbling the ball on the proposal of a consortium of top local conglomerates to modernize NAIA. They are making the negotiations more contentious than necessary so in the end, the private proponents will give up.

DOTr Sec. Art Tugade even had the gall to publicly issue an ultimatum to the proponents to agree on a deal by the end of the month or they can forget it. Sigue kayo… you may not end up running the airport anyway because the Air Force will.

Other than lack of appropriate skills, the Air Force will also falter because they will still be hamstrung by tedious government procedures. They cannot pay proper salaries, nor quickly purchase needed spare parts as we are seeing now. We should just follow the good example of Mactan.

If Mr. Duterte honestly wants NAIA to improve, he has to order the DOTr and NAIA to speed up the processing of the unsolicited proposal of the consortium. Putting them in charge will at least give us the benefit of having the experience of the guys who are running Singapore’s Changi Airport working for us.

The obvious lesson for the President at half time is simply, government cannot do it alone. We need everyone, government and private sector, working together to fix our country.

I was almost ecstatic when I heard the President met with some of the country’s top billionaires. I have always thought this should have taken place early in his term.

Unfortunately, the President wasted this opportunity. He turned it into a monologue of an hour and a half about his drug campaign. 

The President could have asked the billionaires to go out of their way to help solve such problems as housing, health care, and infrastructure development.

The big guys in property could have been asked to go beyond the mandate of the law and provide affordable housing in all their development projects.

Given the fast rise in property prices, developers can afford to do more. For social equity, homeless Filipinos should be allowed to share in the profits of this sector.

So President Duterte is getting impatient. What is important for us to know is simply this: what will he do about it.

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

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