EDITORIAL - Will national emergency hotline work in Cebu City?

The Freeman

Starting August 1, the national emergency hotline 911 will be activated. Based on a directive by President Duterte, the National Telecommunications Commission has ordered all telecommunications companies to route all 911 calls to an existing Patrol 117 command center until a new and dedicated national command center for 911 can be set up.

This is a very good and welcome development. It eliminates the need to memorize and list down the separate emergency numbers for different emergency response agencies of the particular place where a citizen may happen to reside. As a nationwide emergency hotline, the number 911 can be called from anywhere in the country to a command post which then relays the emergency to the appropriate emergency unit for prompt and immediate response.

But as essential and as well-meaning as the new national emergency hotline 911 might be, it is unclear how efficiently it can work in a city like Cebu where the mayor has recalled emergency vehicles such as ambulances, a move widely seen as rooted in politics. The mayor has likewise announced his withdrawal of support for the police, a move that is also seen to affect police efficiency, especially in responding to emergencies.

Of course a lot can still happen between now and August 1 when the new national emergency hotline 911 kicks in. The point is that even the best of intentions can be rendered ineffective and inutile if not everybody is on board, or if there are in this country certain officials who have no qualms sacrificing public interest for their own personal or political interests.

Nevertheless, let not fears of potential kinks in one place spoil the expected wide-ranging benefits of a simple achievement like coming up with a national emergency hotline. The idea is not new. It is in place in many countries. It is in place in Davao City, where the president used to be mayor for a long time. In fact, it is so common and so simple it is surprising why nobody really thought of making it happen until Duterte came into the picture.

That it is going to happen beginning next month underscores for everyone to see how much we have missed by electing ineffectual leaders instead of men who really think and act without wasting any time. In fact, there are those who say the president has already done so much more in the first month of his term than his predecessor did during his entire administration.

Now that may be a little unfair to his predecessor even if there is undeniably an element of truth in it. Be that as it may, let us hope that these tiny little successes by the new administration will not taper off and fade toward the end. The Philippines, after all, is quite notorious for its inability to hold on to a good thing. But, hey, the end is not yet even in sight. We are, in fact, only just beginning.

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