FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) - October 17, 2019 - 12:00am

The inanity just wouldn’t die and hecklers abound.

A week after Sal Panelo took several jeepney rides to work if only to humor the hecklers, calls for all public officials to take public transport every Monday remained abundant. The inanity of such calls is taking time to dawn on some.

As a taxpayer, I would rather that public officials get proper vehicles to move them around. We pay these officials for their executive time. We hate to see them wasting that executive time sitting in traffic and coming to work exhausted.

Moving efficiently might seem a luxury to harried commuters. But there is solid economic logic behind the practice of providing executives service vehicles. We need them putting in quality time on the job.

If we ask all public officials to take inefficient transport, this will cost the country more. Little leadership and governance will be delivered. The country will suffer more because of that.

The hecklers are living in another world if they think officials riding jeepneys will solve the traffic problem gripping the metropolis. We need good engineering, solid urban planning, great financial acumen and exemplary leadership skills to get the right projects done promptly.  We need to understand that the traffic problem requires acute technical and governance solutions.

Heckling gets us nowhere. It is perverse entertainment for the hopelessly ignorant.

Things just get more perverse when politicians rush in to partake of the heckling. The other day, a legislator proposed that government officials should not receive anything more than the minimum wage.

We all know that sage aphorism: If you pay peanuts, all you get are monkeys.

As things stand, it is very difficult to attract executive talent into government. Public sector pay for those willing to take executive responsibilities is always inferior. Executives in the private sector, without exception, take pay cuts when they join the public service. A dose of patriotism is required to serve time in government.

And then there are all the slings and arrows to endure while doing public service. That enlarges the personal costs.

If we reduce executive pay in the public sector to the minimum, all we will harvest is an abundance of morons in government. The public will suffer because of that.

It is legislators such as the one who proposes cutting executive pay to the level of the minimum wage we should examine more rigorously. I recall, while value-added taxation was being debated in Congress years ago, one legislator proposed that in order for the revenue measure to be more palatable to the public corporate tax rates ought to be raised to 30%. The wonder of it all was that this moronic proposal was actually carried by both chambers and made into law.

The value-added tax measure helped us climb out of the debt crisis and win credit rating upgrades. But the high corporate tax rates discouraged investments into our economy, forced many of our own companies to move capital abroad and resulted in higher poverty rates.


Among the last public officials we should want to see wasting time in a jeepney and boiling in traffic is Transport Secretary Arturo Tugade.

The DOTr is spearheading government’s Build, Build, Build infrastructure program. This program is rushing strategic infra projects that will enable us, in the shortest possible time, to overcome the 20-year logistics backlog that burdens our economy.

With Tugade at the helm, the DOTr completed 64 airport projects nationwide. 133 more airport projects are underway. One commercial land port has been built and is productively in operation.

The DOTr oversees the rehabilitation or construction of the LRT-2 East Extension, the MRT-7 Rail Transit Line, the repair of the damaged portion of the LRT-2 line, the improvement of services for LRT-1 and the Cavite LRT extension.

Just last week, the LRTA unveiled the plan for extending LRT-2 to Pier 4. This will involve building three new stations.

Tugade’s agency oversees the construction of the Common Station at the Edsa-West Avenue junction, rehabilitation of PNR services to Calamba and then farther on to Bicol, the Subic-Clark Railway, the rail service from Manila to Clark and the start of the Mindanao Railway system.

All of these will result in greater commuter convenience in the foreseeable future.

It was the DOTr that finally signed the agreement that will lead to the construction of San Miguel’s Bulacan Airport. This facility will match Beijing’s new Daxing Airport in scale.

The DOTr oversees the jeepney modernization program. The agency is currently reviewing plans to build a rapid bus transit system along the Skyway from Alabang to Balintawak with a transport hub at the reused Pandacan storage facility as well as the proposal to build an elevated expressway over EDSA. Both projects were proposed by San Miguel Corp. and will be undertaken without government expense.

Through an affiliated agency, Marina, the DOTr is pushing ahead with our ports modernization program that will enhance the more economic movement of goods and people. The agency has already completed 222 commercial and tourism port projects. Another 122 projects are underway.

The agency also supervises air transport services through attached agencies, assuring not only the efficiency but also the safety of commercial air services.

Tugade also chairs the Toll Regulatory Board that oversees all the expressways linking Metro Manila to the rest of Luzon. He is also principally responsible for the buildup of Clark economic zone, the showcase of the infrastructure program.

With all the things in his plate, we do not want him to waste time in jeepneys.

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