CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

There ought to be a law that will make it illegal and punishable for government officials to make announcements or trial runs of projects and policies that affect public convenience and conveyance when the necessary logistics or related support system has not been completed, done without public consultation and a minimum three months of public information campaign. The law should penalize heads of agencies even department secretaries with a minimum 3 to 6-month suspension for premature implementation or announcement of policies or projects that seriously inconvenience the public and results in their financial losses, disruptive increase in cost of living or greater poverty for people. That same law should seriously punish misrepresentation of facts on the part of representatives of government trying to gain public acceptance or support for controversial or unwanted projects.

I don’t know if the present crop of government officials we now have merely want to please the President ASAP, or are just a bunch of amateurs. Whatever the case may be, we are now dealing with the consequences of a bureaucratic form of “premature ejaculation” where cabinet members, government planners and implementers can’t control their excitement and rush out to tell the world about their fantastic ideas such as TRAIN 1 or the Tax Reform Law and how it’s going to make life so much nicer for millions of Filipinos who will have more money to spend because they will be paying less income tax etc., etc., etc. On a much lower level, we heard the officials of the MMDA announcing the ban on provincial buses within Metro Manila specifically along EDSA because the government has been busy building bus terminals outside the Metro Manila boundaries north and south. To make EDSA even more pleasant, the MMDA officials sternly announced the “dry run” of their High Occupancy Vehicles only on EDSA during rush hours. Then the DPWH and the MMDA announced their radical bridge build – build – build campaign and announced the closure of several bridges for repair and/or expansion. Add to that of course the Jeepney Modernization Program that makes a major financial imposition on operators but does not provide a coping mechanism to enable operators and drivers to affordably replace their units.

Sorry but all those bureaucratic wet dreams have turned into nightmares one after another! The TRAIN 1 looked really good on paper except that the authors were only good at paper work but not at seeing everything through. Secretary Sonny Dominguez and his team may have thought about financial safety nets for the poor but thinking about it does not mean it gets done. All the help for the poor or people living below the poverty line never rolled out until much later; not the additional cash to CCT recipients and to this day the pangtawid pasada cash grant for jeepney drivers is still full of holes and getting obliterated by fuel price hike every two weeks along with uncontrolled inflation! It also does not help for an Asec of the DOTr to be ranting about the jeepney modernization program at a time when TRAIN 1 has become like a cancer on the daily take home pay of jeepney drivers. They say it was lost in translation. No, it was all poorly planned, everyone involved but no one really in-charge.

In yesterday’s Sunday news, a small item on the inside pages of the Philippine Star mentioned that “the MMDA has decided to lift its provincial bus ban after the agency failed to secure the interim terminal in Valenzuela City” The report of Robertzon Ramirez further noted that “the terminal was not yet ready for operation, more than one month after the agency (MMDA) implemented the policy.” The article also quoted an official of a major bus company saying they lost 100 trips a day during the period that the ban was in effect. From the looks of it there is more to the lifting of the ban than failure of government to secure the terminal. During the debate on the bus ban, commuters already asked how the change of bus routes, distances etc., would affect fares or pamasahe for provincial buses. Apparently the LTFRB stepped in and these questions that should have been addressed before are only now being discussed.

As far as the Department of Public Works and Highways is concerned, their most recent attempt to close a bridge inside Metro Manila, the Pantaleon/Estrella Bridge, was placed on hold after 48 hours due to public pressure. Of course no one is talking about how the DPWH attempt effectively sabotaged an equally unpopular project of the MMDA, which was the HOV policy banning single occupant vehicles on EDSA. While the DPWH was busy explaining their “Close-Open” decision, I discovered that the Pantaleon-Estrella bridge that was designed for 10 to 20 thousand cars a day carries as many as 100,000 cars and was being expanded to four lanes combined, even if the receiving end on the Mandaluyong City side only had room for two lanes. A DPWH representative suggested that a subsequent road widening would surely follow in the future. Problem is that narrow road is fenced in by existing buildings!

As far as misrepresentation is concerned, when DPWH officials came to Barrio Kapitolyo to pitch the need and use of their proposed Lawton-Sta Monica Bridge from BGC to Ortigas Center to the community they said the bridge would be for light vehicles only. I recently found out on my TV show AGENDA (Cignal TV Ch.8/250) that the Lawton-Sta. Monica bridge will cost at least P5 billion and is designed to be a high capacity commercial vehicle bridge meaning it can carry container vans and large delivery trucks. Can someone please legislate against these forms of verbal diarrhea? Please!

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