Not fit to build x3
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - September 26, 2018 - 12:00am

Sorry to throw bath water at the roadshow being done by our economic managers in London. But before they spend too much time and effort trying to win investors back to the Philippines, might I suggest that the Cabinet members and traveling salesmen talk to the President so the country and its rulers can get their act together.

The Duterte administration has spent the better part of 2018 talking about “Build Build Build” and the golden age of Philippine Infrastructure, but the question is were they talking in the past tense or the future tense? Judging from how complicated and how long it takes to build drainage canals and alternative bridges in Metro Manila, it might just be that they were referring to construction of infrastructure right after World War II when everything was done “mano-mano” or manual labor and very little machinery. How is it possible that today in 2018 it takes the government two to three years to build “small and short” bridges such as the Pantaleon–Estrella bridge, the San Juan–Sta. Mesa Bridge and the unwanted and unwelcomed Lawton-Sta. Monica bridge that the DPWH insists on running through the already crowded Barrio Kapitolyo where I reside.

While most people with common sense and brains are suggesting that the DPWH should build new bridges and keep the pre-existing ones open, the DPWH-NCR opts to simply close down usable bridges, inconvenience motorists and once again concentrate vehicles on EDSA where the MMDA does not want single occupant vehicles during rush hours. Where the hell are they suppose to pass if a vital link like the Estrella-Pantaleon bridge has been shut down for the next two years? Speaking of which, someone just posted on Facebook that the bridge is being reopened. Is this the fastest project ever done or the fastest turnaround in history?

Perhaps this is the reason why construction and infrastructure development in the country remains at the World War 2 levels of expertise. While other countries are already boring tunnels and building underground roadways in one weekend or a few months, we still rely on people power, manual labor to design, cut and assemble bridges. At the very least, President Duterte was correct in pointing out that our system of choosing “The Lowest Bidders” makes us a country of losers! The lowest bidders spend most of their capital to rent equipment only to tear up roads, dismantle bridges or do demolition work as quick as possible so the project can’t be stopped or stolen by competitors or politicians.

But when it comes time to do the project, to construct the drainage canals or build the bridge, the contractors take forever because “lowest bid” means cheapest and slowest way to build, meaning manual labor because they don’t have full capitalization as well as modern machinery. Another reason why it takes forever is because many contractors operate on a system where they accomplish work based on a schedule in order to collect partial payment, which in turn is used to capitalize continuing work on the project! God forbid that the contractor in your area has several projects going on at the same time because one delay will cause a domino effect on his other projects and finances!

Aside from our primitive and labor intensive construction methods and contractors, the government especially the Department of Transportation has a built in “protectionist” system whereby they prioritize government initiated and funded projects instead of simply letting the private sector use their own money to build infrastructure projects that are far bigger and better designed than any existing government model. For instance, the DOTr and the DOF continue to resist or delay action on unsolicited offers for the Sangley and San Miguel Corp. Bulacan Airport because they would directly compete with NAIA and the Clark International airport and the new Clark City concept of government. In projects that the government has approved, they do very little to act on Right of Way problems. Time and again this inaction of the DPWH or the DOTr has resulted in increased expenditure in hundreds of millions on projects that have had to be rerouted and redesigned.

If we are incapable of constructing airports, roads and bridges using modern equipment and technology at the shortest possible time, how can we convince foreign investors to park their money in the Philippines or set up shop here? Foreigners have no guarantees or protection in this country, they can’t even wholly own a corporation, they can’t engage in anything that involves a “licensed profession” or own property not even under conjugal property rights! In fact as far as the Justice system is concerned foreign investors literally have one foot in the grave if they ever landed in court. So instead of benefitting from technology transfer and shared expertise, we end up with “Brain drain” because our experts leave to learn abroad and end up staying where they can apply their learning.

While observing National Maritime week on our TV show “AGENDA,” I discovered that there was a noticeable drop in the hiring of Filipino seamen because “Ambulance Chasers” or fly by night lawyers have made an industry and lots of profit from filing fraudulent claims for injury, illness or alleged maltreatment by employers. Foreign companies have expressed their aversion to the Philippine justice system where lawyers drag foreign shipping firms and milk them for thousands of dollars by making false claims on behalf of local seamen. This issue has apparently caught international attention among maritime companies so we are no longer the first choice all because our justice system is so susceptible to corruption.

So before we start inviting guests to stay with us, we better clean up not just the house but also our act!

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Email: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

CONSTRUCTION DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS AND HIGHWAYS INFRASTRUCTURE
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