Failure to govern

DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco - The Philippine Star

The traffic mess in our cities is a good illustration of our government’s failure to govern. It is a nationwide problem, not just in Metro Manila. You see commuters suffering in Cebu and Davao as well. Over the weekend, I was surprised that traffic gridlock is also now a problem in Lipa City.

My Singapore-based son and his family visited last week and we took them to resorts outside of Metro Manila, partly to avoid the traffic jams. Some years ago, it took my Singaporean daughter-in-law four hours to get to our place in Pasig from NAIA’s Terminal 3. Her flight from Singapore took less than that.

Because of the experience, my son avoided taking her again to visit us here. They go to Thailand, Japan, Bali and Dubai during school breaks or holidays. It was only now that they dared come back to Manila probably because we reassured them that we would have long and easy drives to Tagaytay and from there to San Juan, Batangas.

Apparently, there was no easy way to get to the highway leading to San Juan. From the STAR tollway, we had to go through Lipa, which has become an urban nightmare since I last visited. I used to have easy drives to Lipa to visit my former boss, the late Jake Macasaet of Malaya. Today, I no longer recognize Lipa. It looks like any of the blighted urban cities of Metro Manila.

Guided by Google Maps and Waze, we navigated our way through Lipa’s choked streets for over an hour until we got to the national highway leading to San Juan. We went through main streets and small streets that our phone apps indicated were the fastest routes out of Lipa and on to our destination.

Lipa’s main streets exhibited the free-for-all spirit we find in Philippine streets. The tricycles, jeepneys, service vehicles, private cars and clueless enforcers of traffic rules made driving a nightmare. Good thing I decided to hire a driver because I have no patience driving with the tricycles as kings on provincial roads.

Traffic madness isn’t all that gave me the impression that Lipa has deteriorated. Like in any Philippine city or municipality, there is no evidence of proper urban planning. The city just grew by itself in all directions, like an amoeba. It is Metro Manila at its worst. Lipa’s city officials over the years failed to make the city more livable.

Don’t get me wrong. It is good to see a bustling city where schools, hospitals, and malls seem to be in every other corner. If progress is measured in pesos and centavos, some can probably think of Lipa as progressive. But I can’t help feeling Lipa sacrificed the quality of life too much for economic growth.

It seems to me Lipa had more greenery and more breathing space during the time of my visits to the rest house of Jake. Today, the only semblance of environmental planning is in the area developed by the Aboitiz Group for some light industries and retail outlets.

I understand the Aboitiz Group will develop a green and sustainable CBU for Lipa. They are now constructing their first building designed for BPOs. They promise to make it a good place to work and play. They already have a football pitch in the area. This will be Lipa’s saving grace.

If they go down their current path, Lipa will choke like Metro Manila, Cebu, Davao and yes, Baguio that sacrificed its pine trees to urban blight. There are those who say that because we are a poor country with a lot of poor people, such deterioration of our urban environment is unavoidable. I beg to disagree.

Anyway, what makes myopic LGU officials different from equally myopic private developers? Both are just after quick money.

Look at Legaspi and Salcedo Villages, meant to be residential villages haphazardly turned into business centers with tall buildings and narrow streets. Look at BGC, the traffic jams on 5th Avenue and elsewhere are pretty bad. The blocks are too short, so there is a corner after every hundred meters or so that slows down traffic, specially when their traffic lights are not well synchronized. BGC can use a decent public transport system that will make it convenient for people to park their cars away from the center.

We are an ad hoc kind of people. We make-do with what we have so that the temporary becomes permanent… like the jeepneys and urban blight.

It seems politically untenable, maybe impossible, to civilize life in our urban centers that are bursting at the seams with people. Our urban problems have become too big to fix. We are a long-suffering people and it seems that we are quite happy or content to live in our pigsty. We demand little or nothing from our leaders and they in turn give us nothing outside of occasional crumbs.

Our Congress cuts the budget for healthcare services, including hospitals whose services a majority of us depend on. They cut the budget for schools and public universities. They cut the budget for the Philippine Science High School system, our hope to educate and train our young people to be competitive in today’s world where technology is fast evolving.

It doesn’t seem to worry our VP and Education Secretary that three million students dropped out of public schools, that’s sure to exacerbate our already kulelat position among peer nations worldwide for knowledge of math, science and reading. All she talks about is ROTC, national security, and confidential funds, which should not be what keeps her awake at night.

Failure of governance has made our country a basket case. Our officials do not seem to have the capability or desire to govern properly. Public office is a family business, which explains why governors, mayors and congressmen live well amidst the squalor in their communities.

And until we start seeing some competence and real love of country among officials and the private sector elite, we will be a failed state soon. We can and should do better. We have to demand better from our leaders. Otherwise, our future generations will live worse lives than we are living now.



Boo Chanco’s email address is [email protected]. Follow him on X (Twitter) @boochanco

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