‘Failure of implementation’
DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - June 5, 2020 - 12:00am

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade admitted “failure of implementation” when CNN Philippines asked him about social media posts on Monday showing desperate workers forced to travel crammed in police and military trucks and exposing them more to the Wuhan coronavirus.

“Kung may mga nangyayaring ganyan, hindi ho yan resulta ng pagpayag but resulta ho ng tinatawag natin na failure of implementation at kailangan lang i-correct… Hindi ho totoong walang plano... Sa aming paglunsad at pagaganap ng mga planong ito, natural mente na merong mga taong nai-inconvenience. Sinasakripisyo ba natin ang mga manggagawa? Hindi ho,” Tugade said.

But the MMDA general manager blamed commuters for the chaos in the streets.

“They were focused on traveling even though they knew, just as the Department of Transportation said, our first priority is health and safety,” MMDA GM Jose Arturo Garcia said in a radio interview.

That’s how Garcia justified the lack of public transport, which DOTr still disallowed from operating even as the community quarantine level was lowered to allow more people to start working. Our officials opened up the opportunity to work, but were insensitive to the need of workers for transportation to their workplace.

It seems the IATF and the transportation officials thought a policy decision to curtail supply of transportation would make the workers stay home and bring down demand.

But after months of lockdown and long empty wallets, workers do not have the option of staying home if they want their families to eat. Transport supply must meet demand. Assuring that happens is what government is about.

Apparently, DOTr and MMDA focused on their EDSA bus experiment and neglected the secondary routes that feed in to it. Ironically, there was a long line of buses at North EDSA ready to bring passengers to Makati in 27 minutes via the experimental bus lane.

But the potential passengers were stuck in Commonwealth and other areas and couldn’t get to the North  EDSA starting point of the buses. Sayang, because government paid for all those nearly empty buses anyway.

The general community quarantine level was used as an excuse to keep other modes of transport from UVs to jeepneys from plying their routes. The truth is, they were simply not ready last June 1 for anything.

On Facebook, this was how retired UP Political Science Professor Clarita Carlos reacted to the mess on the streets during the first day of a more relaxed quarantine rules:

“Are we aware of the dictum that any part of our anatomy we do not use soon ATROPHIES...

“1.  Listening to some officials in tonight’s news really put confirmation to above.

“2.  When asked why there was a phalanx of commuters who could not get rides to their places of work in MetroManila, here was the response:

“‘They could get a Grab or taxi to take them to EDSA where the MRT and some P2P buses are available.’

“3.  Many workers have been locked down without work and without salaries during the 2 1/2 month lockdown... Do we expect them to have money to pay Grab or taxi?

“4.  Really... when you do not use any part of your anatomy for a long time, it ATROPHIES...

“6.  By the way, this includes the SEXIEST organ in your body....The BRAIN... what else?”

Indeed, social media was full of observations that concluded our officials were either too lazy to use the almost 3 months of quarantine to plan the return of public transport in our streets or just too stupid to figure out what their jobs called for.

Maybe the observations are too harsh. But not without a grain of truth too. Unfortunately, the message this government is giving the citizens: bahala na kayo sa buhay nyo! That sounds like what another transport secretary in a previous administration said.

I want to think our officials are not that heartless. They just don’t know what to do given a lot of conflicting needs like social distancing in our inadequate transport system.

Another UP professor posted his analysis of what’s going on with our government:

“COVID 19 and the resulting lockdown have glaringly magnified the technical deficits of our technically incompetent senior officials. They are now discovering those posts carry responsibilities which under this pandemic, our citizens will hold them accountable.

“Take for instance the DOH, it was supposed to lead the effort in the fight against COVID 19 and the stylized findings in the medical literature is that to counter it effectively, four things must be done:  mass testing of targeted or at risk population, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine. DOH practically failed in all counts.

“Even the construction of testing labs and isolation and quarantine facilities was assigned to non-DOH personnel.

“Imagine if this happens in the private sector, the head of the agency or unit involved in creating the mess would have been fired. Or that person, due to delicadeza, would have resigned by now, because it is an affront to you as a person heading the task of protecting public health to assign your major responsibility to a non-health guy!

“Another example is the transport mess we are in right now in the NCR and adjoining areas. We have been in lockdown for 2.5 months and these officials have not properly planned/prepared for the return of commuters???!!!

“Now DoTr and MMDA are scampering for solutions… That is sheer technical incompetence or dereliction of responsibility!

“In contrast, there are government agencies that prepared well for the gradual lifting of the lockdown because they are run by technically competent individuals. Among these are DOF, NEDA and DA.

“The clear lesson for good governance is that we need to limit political appointments of technically incompetent individuals. They damage not only the credibility of the appointing official but more importantly, damage the nation. This is what this pandemic has demonstrated to all of us.”

Someone recalled that years ago, people described the PNoy administration as a student council. How should we describe DOH, DoTr and MMDA officials now?

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

ARTHUR TUGADE
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