A hard week to be president
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - April 15, 2019 - 12:00am

I have reason to believe that forces around the President are moving and pushing for radical action to address the critical shortages before water and power becomes a serious election issue. Some political “High Priests” may be adopting the Philosophy of Caiaphas who said: ‘It is better for one man to die than for the entire nation to perish.” In 2019, the version would be: “It is better to publicly fire a few political appointees instead of losing the 2019 election.”

As we start our week long momentary piety in observation of the Holy Week, it would serve all of us well to pray for President Duterte during this time because judging from pronouncements, it will be a week of hard decisions beginning with what to do with the controversial or “Illegal Document” called the 2019 Budget. He also has to decide on a new “kill list” of government officials who are either corrupt or incompetent. Then he has to prepare for his Face Off with President Xi Jinping of China regarding the apparent “show of mass” of Chinese vessels surrounding one of our islets or rock outcrops in the Philippine Sea.

The President’s first headache is whether he should veto the 2019 Budget altogether, just line veto controversial items as suggested by Senators, keep the original government proposal only and dump the self-serving insertions of both houses, or close his eyes and just sign. Then follows the unpleasant task of firing people. Not just the so-called corrupt minor officials but several political appointees who have proven to be ineffective in their positions particularly in the areas of public utility such as power and water.

The President gave the officials of MWSS and Manila Water up to April 10 to fix the problem but what needs to be cleared is what the President meant by “Fixed.” Right now water services has returned to 95 percent of Manila Water customers but the service remains at 40 to 50 percent in terms of 24/7 services and only 60 percent pressure compared to pre-shortage crisis. In the area of electricity or electric power, the entire Luzon is shifting from yellow to red alert everyday, five power generation plants have shut down “unplanned or unexpectedly” and from what I read and hear in the news, Luzon is 25 percent short of electricity. As a result, we now have 3 to 5 hour brownouts. In both cases the government regulators point the problem to private sector operators who in turn are just as fast in blaming government for not approving their proposals, requests or addressing their complaints.

Judging on the performance of government officials particularly political appointees in the Duterte administration; they are generally better talkers than doers. Whether it’s the “Build Build Build”, Train Law, the reconstruction of Marawi, transport modernization, water resource development and the growing power shortage; the officials concerned have all excelled at promoting propaganda but failed in terms of project management or project developments. They are great at hyping up plans and visions, recklessly rush into projects or programs and almost always have to go back to clean up their mess or explain their way out of mistakes and short falls.

It’s sad that while they are good Talkers, they mostly suck when it comes to advance planning, proper staff work, and developing and implementation of genuine public information tools or programs. The public is often caught by surprise or left to themselves to work out the impact or effects of poorly thought out government projects or policies. In fact political appointees have lived up to the negative version of modern day “ Disruptors.” The good version are the businesses that disrupts systems by innovation or replacing the outdated model such as GRAB replacing the taxi model, or Angkas defying the curse of daily traffic by providing motorcycle taxi service and deliveries. They disrupt to improve or innovate.

The bad version of “Disruptors” are government agencies that disrupt business solutions such as UV-Express and Angkas wherein an agency like the LTFRB goes after the solutions provider instead of facilitating the solution by legitimizing them. These past weeks the biggest disruptor would be managers and regulators of power and water resources whose solution to our water and power shortage is to tell consumers to cut down on our consumption of water and electricity. I don’t know if it qualifies as an Oxymoron but consumers don’t have much choice except to conserve or cut back on their consumption if there is no water to consume in a 12-hour forced rationing or where electricity is so expensive that consumers don’t have to be told to cut back on consumption. People will of course use more electricity during summer because the added cost to our electric bill will still be cheaper compared to ending up in the hospital for several days due to a heat induced medical conditions.

From the Presidential apologists down to the Undersecretaries speaking for various departments of government the “Spokespersons” can undoubtedly talk or smart ass their way out of discussions or arguments. But what they cannot explain away is the fact that our shortages is due to the fact that many critical government agencies are being run or led by politicians, ex-politicians who have no in-depth knowledge or expertise on the field and subject matter they are in. After 3 years you would think that the MWSS Board and the people at the Energy Regulatory Commission and Department of Energy would know by now that we don’t have enough reserves or means to sustain a healthy surplus of power and water! So we now have to pray that President Duterte will once again barge into their work place and give them an ultimatum or deadline to fix the problem.

Lets all pray that God Almighty will bless President Duterte with divine wisdom and calm to do what needs to be done.

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