Sliced by snobs?

CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - January 4, 2017 - 12:00am

I once wrote how impressed I was with “Capitol Commons” developers because they actually gave part of their property along Meralco Avenue for road widening purposes. After that I hailed the developers for allowing people especially nearby residents to partake of their park and ample parking spaces. I really liked the place. But it turns out that it was too good to last and it seems that Capitol Commons is no longer for the common.

While I understand the impact to their environment, I was quite disappointed to see how the developers methodically started clamping down on traffic driving through their commercial complex. First it was a ban on motorcycles passing through. Then they started to stop delivery vans. Then one day they closed the place to all crossing traffic and would only open after 9 a.m. To be honest I get their point and I understand the problem. But one day, a Pasig City official told me that Capitol Commons officials vehemently opposed the construction of two concrete pillars that was part of the support structure of an elevated circular pedestrian walkway that would connect Capitol Commons with Barrio Kapitolyo.

I really don’t know if this change in corporate attitude has to do with the reported sale of the property from the Ortigas group to the Ayala group, but their refusal to be connected to the loop has forced the City of Pasig to slice the loop into a half circle and relocate the pillars further and away from the frontage of the “Not for the Commons” development. Whatever their reasons, it reminds me of the time when then MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando had an overpass constructed over C5 that landed in front of the Citibank. They too opposed the project, dragged things out until the matter was resolved much later.

All this brings to mind the suggestion of Architect Jun Palafox to members of Congress and the Senate to pass an “Anti Snob Law” similar to that passed in Boston, Massachusetts that basically dealt with the presumed right or sense of entitlement of people, groups, enclaves and even business establishments who prioritize their snobbery over public safety and needed infrastructure. It is high time for such a law to be passed in order to get back control of roads, sidewalks and right of way for much needed infrastructure and public access. To be fair that law should also require or provide for consultation and cooperation between LGUs, government agencies and the private sector on how to approach such problems and not presume that just because you can, you will. We all need to prioritize “community,” not exclusivity or authority.

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Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez may have to study how to become the Lion Tamer of Congress. I get the impression that many Congressmen have been focusing on how to protect or promote the interest of their patrons or constituents more than the national interest. Just before their Christmas break, a bunch of Congressmen passed a proposed bill for a two-tiered or two kinds of tax for two types of cigarettes instead of the single tax system provided in the approved Sin Tax Law. The lawmakers claim it will be good for tobacco farmers and good for tax collection.

After the Christmas break I heard that a Congressman opposes the total ban on firecrackers because the manufacturers will all go out of business. These are just a couple of laws in the making that are clearly “protectionist” or aimed to give an advantage to a specific group or business over public health or interest.

The pro-firecracker Congressman has probably not even studied or researched the actual cost to life and limb, damage to health and the environment as well as smuggling and tax evasion involving firecrackers. But all the Congressman is concerned about is the business of a few hundred stores who can still supply directly to LGUs and officially sanctioned fireworks events.

On the other hand the two tiered – higher tax proposal of the merry making Congressmen won’t be good for tobacco farmers because data show that cigarette use is on a serious decline and higher taxes will simply raise prices causing further decline in sale and use and hurt tobacco farmers. If Congressmen really cared for tobacco farmers, they should be paying attention to the statistics and coming up with a cross-over scheme such as multiple crops – mix farming system backed by research, programs, training and funding. Let them plant food, not poison.

Higher taxes sound good on paper but it’s only good if you can collect from a smuggler or a tax evader. The only beneficiary to the two-tiered system proposed by Congress will be the company who sells cheaper brands because they will end up getting the smokers who will shift from the higher price brands to the lower price brands. Given the lower tax computation, the cheap brands will pay less tax but gain a greater market share; courtesy of the Congressmen! That’s one Mighty advantage.

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It’s been a while since I passed through Calamba and Los Baños in Laguna but I certainly feel bad and pity all the people who have been suffering through hours of traffic, delays, loss of income and losing hours everyday simply because the officials of the province and the LGUs don’t have a sense of urgency or don’t prioritize solving the traffic problem. Judging from news reports on radio, the agony of people passing through or living in these towns tripled over the holidays especially when the very few traffic officers also went on holiday.

Towards the end of 2016 I passed through the area more than twice and I easily lost two hours in traffic one way. On two other occasions, I opted to drive a distance two times longer rather than sit in traffic and I actually reached my destination faster. It seems to me that the Governor of Laguna if not the Secretary of the DILG ought to PRIORITIZE “traffic solutions and action” for 2017. Kindly put more effort on the problem instead of concentrating too much on increasing tax revenues and re-election. You cannot talk about progress in the province or the town if all people can talk and complain about is the horrible traffic in your place.

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