Backbone of progress

POINT OF VIEW - Ariel Nepomuceno - The Philippine Star

The new administration of presumptive president Bongbong Marcos will be immediately confronted with countless challenges. There’s no opportunity for trial and error nor chance to study the situation. The problems are lurking and further penalizing a divided people who reel in a worsening global economic crisis. The impact of the pandemic has disrupted businesses, and the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea is far from over.

Meanwhile, more than 23.7 percent of our population, or more than 20 million Filipinos, are struggling to survive from poverty. More than 30 million voters who cast their votes for the new chief executive are hoping that significant improvements in their material conditions will happen soon, not later.

The key in a dire situation of managing simultaneous obstacles or, to use the military parlance, crucial in handling multiple battlefronts, is to identify which one must be prioritized. The top commander must be able to identify which decisive battle must be focused on and expect the maximum favorable result that would determine the outcome of the entire war. In our case, war against widespread poverty, prevailing hopelessness and economic uncompetitiveness.

Pave the way for commerce. Literally, enough roads and bridges must link the major islands of our archipelago. Solid infrastructure must be provided to strengthen the free flow of goods and services that our enterprises produce. Coupled with these is an efficient mass transport system that is at par with other countries.

Presumptive president Marcos may continue the accomplishments of the “Build Build Build” program of the outgoing administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. Now is the time to immediately roll out the needed cargo and passenger railways that will move people and goods across cities, agricultural lands and manufacturing hubs. We are amongst the very few countries in the world that has no decent and functional railway system.

Likewise, in the urban areas, especially the National Capital Region (NCR), more LRT or MRT passenger lines must be installed like the ones enjoyed in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. In those mega cities, passengers are conveniently brought to their destinations and become productive without the risk of being late for work due to the long queues and undependable train coaches. In fact, riding their trains is included in the “must see list” of their tourists.

Modernize all our main gateways. Our international airports must catch up with the accepted global standards from arrival, immigration processing, waiting facilities and their physical appearance. We seem to have never considered to be classified amongst the world’s best. Our seaports and local airports must also be drastically renovated and expanded if we are to please and satisfy both our local and foreign travelers.

It is also high time that we retire the thousands of dilapidated kings of the roads. Aside from the disciplinary training that jeepney drivers urgently need, these old vehicles churn out the carbon monoxide and other harmful gasses that pollute the metropolis. Try to see Ortigas area one morning from one of the restaurants in Sumulong Highway in Antipolo City and you would know what I mean. These symbols of our lack of progress must be systematically phased-out and replaced with newer and environment friendly jeepneys.

Subways must be built too. Modern technology from Japan, China and Europe can be explored to create this underground mass transport system that will serve our millions of daily commuters. If successful, private vehicles will be syphoned off from the roads, reduce the traffic mess and reduce our total fuel consumption. More skyways must also be constructed.

Righteous cycle will be unleashed. Aggressively pursuing these projects will be strategically investing for the future. These road and transport mega infrastructure will ensure the growth and competitiveness of our economy. Economic activities will be enhanced, and convenience in traveling will be delivered. A deep sense of pride will also be enjoyed by a society that has somewhat lost this already.

With these too, jobs will be at once created and allow thousands of workers to bring home the needed salaries to overcome the present economic crunch. More taxes will be collected from a more productive economy. And lastly, the environment would even benefit from the efficiency that is attained with the new modern network of transportation.

All roads and bridges ease the dilemma on traffic problems. Every good public infrastructure project will produce jobs and revenues for the government. Each transportation hub will improve the delivery of agricultural products to our urban centers. All of these will pave the way for our much-coveted economic recovery.

The next administration must exert all their efforts on winning this decisive battle in the long-term war against poverty and collective desperation of our people.

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