EDITORIAL - Moratoriums do not solve problems

The Freeman

A Cebu City ordinance granting a one-year moratorium on demolitions and clearing operations of illegal dwellings and obstructions has been extended for another year and the councilors who pushed for the extension are slapping each other's backs in misguided feelings of accomplishment. The legislative feat means nothing at all if, after the lapse of one more year, they will still be faced with the same problem.

Instead of self-congratulations, the councilors should use the borrowed time to find lasting solutions to the problem of poverty and landlessness that illegal structures and obstructions so starkly represent. That the councilors had to go for another year of extension shows they have not done anything in that direction. If they fail to do anything again, what, pray tell, will they do again – go for yet another extension?

The problem will not go away unless it is dealt with squarely. The city and its councilors cannot just keep on kicking the years backward in extension after extension like it were some darn football. The city and its councilors need to recognize the problem for what it is. Only in so doing will they realize that poverty and homelessness are problems that just cannot be solved by moratoriums on demolitions.

Moratoriums are only reprieves. They are only postponements. They are not solutions to problems. The sooner the city and its councilors recognize that, the closer they can get to coming to grips with the problem and what they are supposed to do as representatives of the people, including people who will most be affected by demolitions once these can no longer be postponed.

Moratoriums only have a shelf life of maybe one, two or three years. Eventually, even those councilors who feel inclined to push for moratoriums will start to feel foolish at what they are doing. By the third or fourth year, a moratorium will start to look ridiculous. It will start to haunt even the most callous councilors in their sleep. It will begin to feel like pedal-pushing a tricycle of ice cream, with an endless recorded jingle playing over and over in your head.

It would, of course, be presumptuous to tell our honorable councilors what to do with the problem. But of course they know what to do. The question is whether they are willing to find the time to do it. Because as it appears today, Cebu City councilors are more preoccupied with politicking. Even from the moment they started to warm their seats, politics has always been on top of their agenda.

Not that the problem of poverty and landlessness is easy to solve. But it is not that hard as well. Again, all it needs is the willingness to find the time to do it. The city government has vast enough material and physical resources to tap. There are corporate good samaritans who are also more than willing to share in the responsibility of seizing the problem by the horns. All that is needed really is the time to dwell on the problem until it can be solved.

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