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Opinion

Omission

FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno - The Philippine Star

The final calamity wrought by the “disbursement acceleration program”(DAP), the one that will be felt for decades, lies not in what was committed but what was omitted because of it.

In order to pool mammoth amounts of “savings,” the Aquino administration cancelled infra projects wholesale. The Belgian-assisted dredging of Laguna de Bay, the French-assisted construction of modern ro-ro ports, the Chinese-assisted Northrail project, the rehabilitation of our airports, the Japanese assisted flood control and many others were arbitrarily junked. The massacre of major infra projects in 2010 and 2011 resulted in a sharp drop in our GDP growth rate in 2011.

All these were major infra projects. They might have broadened the asset base of our economy to underpin future growth. Their multiplier effects are massive.

The DAP mechanism converted economic investments into politically configured consumption. The money taken from infra projects was converted into pork barrel slush funds designed to strengthen the grip of the Liberal Party over our politics. 

The profoundness of the crime committed cannot be overstated. It has substantially diminished the opportunities for sustainable growth of the next generation of Filipinos.

Today we feel the infrastructure constraints in various injurious forms.

The decrepit MRT system nearly took lives in yet another malfunction last Wednesday. Congestion of the Manila port traps tens of thousands of containers, depriving inputs for factories and, because of inefficiency, pushes up the inflation rate. The infernal traffic gridlock in the metro area wastes billions in fuel and lost man-hours. The international airport, unwisely named after the President’s father, is universally considered the worst in the world. The provincial airports are even more inferior.

We are all penalized daily by the crime of omission committed to build the DAP: the absent infrastructure, the absence of strategic planning, the inefficiency of domestic logistical systems that inflict an intolerably high food price regime on the poor, the time we waste trying to get from one point to the next in the city.

The infrastructure gap that constrains our economy widened rather than narrowed in the past four years. Understandably, the country’s standing in the UN Human Development Index plummeted the past few years.

We are descending too fast, we threaten to displace the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In addition, we are trying to approximate the sort of tyrannical government they have there.

As if to add salt to the wound, President Aquino announced he is now open to term extension if the people want it. They way to do that is to alter the Constitution with the unabashed excuse of disempowering the judiciary.

Basically, what he is saying is that if the DAP is unconstitutional, change the Constitution (and castrate the pesky Supreme Court in the process). That way, the DAP may be continued — and again used to bribe the legislature into submission.

What unhappy times the nation is in.

Logistics

While this administration has been slow in addressing our economy’s infrastructure gap, there are a few private investments addressing our economy’s need for better logistics.

The most remarkable of these investments is the Sabah Al-Ahmad Gateway Logistics City (GGDC) currently being built near the Clark International Airport. This development encompasses 177 hectares and will eventually involve investments of about  $3 billion.

The first structure of this project is a state-of-the-art hospital that will be managed by the Medical City group. The new 20,000 square meter hospital is in its final stages of construction and will service the entire Central Luzon area. It is scheduled for opening on December 8, 2014 — a month ahead of projected completion.

The entire project is supported by KGL investment Company (KGLI), a private equity fund focused on infrastructure, logistics and transport, oil and gas, energy and power, and related industries all over the Middle East and Asia. The GGLC is named in honor of Sabah Al-Ahmad, Amir of Kuwait, who personally committed to then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo the ambitious project will be completed at the soonest possible time.

By the end of 2015, GGLC expects to complete five office towers with a gross floor area of 145,000 square meters, a retail and gas plaza and a hotel and serviced apartment complex. These facilities will provide employment opportunities for 15,000 Filipinos.

When the entire project is completed, it will provide employment opportunities for a total of 300,000 workers with an estimated $600 million in annual payroll for entry-level employees alone. In addition to that amount infused to the local economy, the world-class facility will contribute a much larger amount in trade, sales and services.

When completed the GGLC will be one of the world’s most modern logistics aerotropolis with a total of 5.8 million square meters of floor space. This is the reason the GGLC has been recognized in each of the past three years as one of the top global infrastructure projects by the Washington-based CG/LA, a group that monitors major infra projects around the world.

In anticipation of the completion of this logistics city, the KGLI bought into the 2GO group and Negros Navigation, among others. The facility will help us reap the full economic value anticipated from the world-class airport facility inherited from the US military. 

The airport has so far been underutilized since the Bases Treaty ended in 1991. The two superior-grade runways is the envy of other countries. They will be the key to the rapid industrialization of Central Luzon.

Global Gateway Logistics City is a breathtaking project many Filipinos are not fully familiar with, even as the investors in this facility donated $1 million to help rebuild the Yolanda-devastated areas.

 

AMIR OF KUWAIT BASES TREATY CENTRAL LUZON CLARK INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT CONGESTION OF THE MANILA DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO GLOBAL GATEWAY LOGISTICS CITY HUMAN DEVELOPMENT INDEX LIBERAL PARTY LOGISTICS
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