From ‘unsolicited’ to ‘coveted’

CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - October 30, 2020 - 12:00am

Where achievements are sparse, credit grabbers abound.

I can’t help but notice how some spin doctors and politicians have been making statements that make it appear that many of the infrastructure accomplishments in the country are actually their projects and their achievements or that their participation was so vital that without them or their people nothing would have been accomplished.

Sorry to burst their fantasy bubbles but last I remember, many of today’s big ticket items were either unsolicited proposals or multibillion-peso projects that the administration was not willing or able to bankroll and unwilling to give sovereign guarantees for. In fact, government officials often challenged or questioned these projects concerning their economic viability or for directly competing with existing government projects or developments. On many occasions, administration officials would even state that some projects were fully funded and will be built privately or by China or Chinese firms at no cost to the country. At one point, some agency officials even wanted to penalize a corporation for allegedly causing traffic and losses to commuters while they were building an unscheduled project as requested by another agency. The long and short of it is that when the private sector proposes they get grief and when the project is about to be completed or has been completed, government officials start behaving like Intellectual Property thieves or worse, coveting their neighbor’s honor and glory, taking credit without any real hard work.

Recently, a news article came out where a DPWH team was given so much praise for working so hard to get “Right Of Way” (ROW) for infrastructure projects. I had to scratch my head about that one because I remember back in the pre-COVID days how a couple of projects got stalled because of the ROW issues. In the end, one group simply had to shell out or advance the payment to affected property owners because the delay meant additional interest payments on huge loans; while another company found it faster and cheaper to redesign the direction or path of their project in order to avoid the long and costly delays involving ROW. This is why parts of certain projects ended up being built on top of rivers and esteros!

When President Duterte called for the creation of a Mega Task Force  against corruption, one senior senator was quoted as saying that the task force should investigate all the Right Of Way transactions because of probable corruption. Although the different corporations and investors don’t say anything about this perceived “covetous” act, it is a sore point because it goes beyond bragging rights. Such acts of misrepresentation diminishes the stature and accomplishments of companies that are dependent on their track record and public image in terms of securing funding, loans and selling shares of stock. Given the massive funding for infrastructure projects, everything is about public perception.

Perhaps it would be better if the DPWH and their officials were more transparent and went about practicing the principle of “giving credit where credit is due.” Instead of trying to justify their existence, budget and performance relative to the administration’s “Build Build Build” program, they should simply recognize, honor and promote the many projects that the private sector companies have been putting up. The public can see what is being built; they are invested in these projects in terms of momentary inconvenience as well as future aspirations of comfort and convenience. They also know what companies or mega-corporations are investing on our infrastructure projects. There is nothing wrong or bad if the DPWH simply monitors, assists and updates the public on these “unsolicited projects.” It would already be commendable if the DPWH simply made sure that the projects are done with the least amount of disruption and no cost to government. By giving credit where credit is due, government would actually be encouraging more investments while helping investors increase their credit ratings, share values, etc. In return, offices like the DPWH won’t be in the cross hairs of suspicion and contempt. Nation building is all about partnerships and shared work and ultimately shared rewards. Nobody likes credit grabbers.

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The DOT and DTI finally got their wish for the IATF to open up establishments particularly hotels, resorts and restaurants, but if these very establishment do not manage the expectations of their clients or guests, chances are they will lose clients in the long run. I have heard a growing number of complaints related to food choices, food quality and the like from people going to these establishments. Many of the designated “Quarantine Hotels” that cater mainly to OFWs and returning residents reportedly have very limited choices and the quality of ingredients is below par. For example, a common complaint is that the pork is too fatty, vegetables are limited and the experience is more like a dorm than a hotel.

Those going to restaurants have found the selections equally limited and more often than not you hear the waiters singing the refrain “Out of stock” or “naubusan na po” (We’ve run out). Similar to the Quarantine Hotels, a number of restaurants seem to have fired or lost their good chefs and this has resulted in lackluster or inferior tasting food and presentations. One PBA player actually told me that nowadays he much prefers eating at home because the taste and quality is a lot better, not like in the old days when going to a restaurant was a special treat. We all need to support hotels, resorts and restaurants, but in like manner these establishments need to look after their service and their products because we are now “eating and checking-in at our own risk” because of COVID-19.

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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