Phl left far behind due to bad leaders

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

No man is a prophet in his own land. That truism frustrates architect-urban planner Felino Palafox Jr. no end. For world leaders he has planned and built modern cities, yet cannot get Philippine officials to do the first good thing for our people. In recapping that personal irony, “Jun” also ably compares advancing states with left-behind Philippines:

“In 1975-1977 I was Senior Planner and Team Leader of MetroPlan (Metro Transport, Land Use, and Development Planning). Funded by the World Bank, the project covered 40 towns and cities. More than 300 recommendations were put forward. One was that the LRT (Light Rail Transit) should have completed eight lines by 1992.

“In 2003 I submitted to Harvard the ‘Manila Megalopolis 2020,’ a report that assumes a 30-million population. I’ve distributed this proposal with government leaders, written about it, and shared it with the media.

“Like with previous planning initiatives, it ended with the same government scenario: ‘Do Nothing.’

“Now we have catastrophic traffic, flooding, no adequate preparations for disasters.

“I’ve put forward 145 recommendations to address the hazards before disasters strike. Other countries listen to me. Our country’s leaders don’t.

“I’ve done projects in 39 countries. Our country is the most challenging.

“I’ve visited to observe more than a thousand cities in 67 countries. The more progressive cities and countries have: (1) visionary leadership, (2) strong political will, (3) good planning, (4) good design, (5) good governance. Their leaders are not intellectually challenged. Not integrity challenged.

“In 1977 the leaders of Dubai name-hired me to help plan Dubai. That was right after my Planning leadership of MetroPlan-Manila. In just 15 years Dubai leapt from Third to First World. And look at Dubai today – innovative because its leaders have the five ingredients for success.

“I’ve shared these with the Management Association of the Philippines, as then-president in 2011. Recently to the MAP National Issues Committee I presented what I believe are the challenges we must address urgently, effectively. These are: corruption, criminality, climate change, poverty, pollution, too much politics, the police, transportation, traffic, infrastructure, and incompetence.”

* * *

Jun bunched up the challenges by their starting letters. Was it coincidental that the first and last items in the list – corruption and incompetence – aptly depict the government?

He talks of transportation and traffic, infrastructure and urban blight – the purview of the transport department. That department hardly has planned the mass transport systems of metropolises like Baguio, Dagupan, San Fernando-Angeles, Cavite-Laguna, Cebu, Iloilo, Davao, and General Santos.

What the transport department has done since 1986 are only a few sea and airports. Today many of those facilities, the Commission on Audit recently reported, do not have the most basic human need: functioning washrooms. Why? Because despite impressive educational credentials, the present head is corrupt and incompetent. He insisted on centralized contracting of the construction of all washrooms and the supply of all toilet bowls and fixtures, worth hundreds of millions of pesos. The hauling of the materials alone from Metro Manila to the two-dozen or so air and seaports would have wasted time and money. No sane constructor joined the bidding.

The country has had a succession of crooked, inept transport chiefs. The one in 1986 engaged in urban land use not in the Philippines but in Los Angeles County, California – and only for personal gain. No accomplishment. The one in 1992 finished the LRT-2 commuter railway in Metro Manila, 12 long years after Marcos built LRT-1. He also gave Build-Operate-Transfer a bad name by initiating the MRT-3 under onerous terms. The private owner-builder ended up with a guaranteed 15-percent revenue share, despite stinting on its duty to expand. His successor initiated MRT-3.

The one in 1998 didn’t have much time to do anything. The one in 2001, despite having militarized the department with retired generals, caved in to dirty interests of the presidential spouse. Thus was conceived the $329-million (P16.5-billion) national broadband network by China’s ZTE Corp. The kickback, P10 billion, was larger than the actual project cost of P6.5 billion.

Taking orders from his immediate predecessor, the present transport secretary has wasted P10.13 billion on the MRT-3 alone. He has granted the maintenance to a Liberal Party-mate hidden first behind PH Trams, then Global Epcom, and now the four dummies of Korea’s Busan Transport Corp. He purchased 48 supposedly motorized functional coaches from unqualified Chinese company Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock Corp. The first prototype arrived engineless, the second lacking wheels, both unfitted with ATP (Automatic Train Protector) that electronically connects them to each other and the central signaling. He has given away the expansion to LRT-1. Before any construction can begin, he wants to reimburse the constructor P7.5 billion in damages, due to his department’s (deliberate?) failure to turn over rights-of-way and fire-earthquake safety plans.

Meanwhile, not only Metro Manila but all megacities clog with recklessly driven, pollutive buses, jeepneys, and tricycles.

* * *

Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays 8-10 a.m., DWIZ, (882-AM).

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website http://www.philstar.com/author/Jarius%20Bondoc/GOTCHA


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