A full plate for Tugade
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade offers a quote from Abraham Lincoln in his presentation on his first months in office. It goes: “If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how—the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what’s said against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.”
Indeed, judging from Tugade’s experience, it seems that the nature and conduct of politics and governance have not moved much in the centuries since Lincoln penned these words. Then as now, political differences and vested interests still pit officials against other officials, even if they serve the same government. And public interest, and those pursuing it, still comes under siege from those promoting their private, selfish ends.
Judging from his full plate, Tugade would seem among the most beleaguered of the members of the Duterte Cabinet. Daily, he and his Department of Transportation must surely figure in the curses of commuters facing hours-long delays on their way to and from work due to traffic and road mishaps. Every snag, every accident that takes place in the daily busy routes of the overhead commuter trains, railways and national highways end up on his desk. And his name must surely cross the lips of passengers confronted with delays and execrable service in airports, seaports and other hubs.
If the late former senator Miriam Defensor Santiago bragged that she ate “death threats for breakfast,” Tugade could surely say that his daily diet includes not just threats to his survival and welfare but also calls for his eternal damnation.
But the gruff and no-nonsense Cabinet member doesn’t seem all the worse for wear given the public ire he faces daily. In fact, in a recent lunch with members of the media, he seemed oddly optimistic, even cheerful, given that the brickbats have been met, not with harsh words from him, but with accomplishments meant not just to silence critics but, more so, to better serve the public.
As the lunch wore on, Tugade would post questions to his guests, asking for the feasibility of some projects he had in mind, probing the public’s possible reaction or reception.
“I have a 30-year roadmap on transportation and traffic,” he said, adding that the plans are there for the relief not just of residents in traffic-riddled Metro Manila but for “all Filipinos, all around the country.”
Among the recent achievements he is most proud of, Tugade mentioned the Common Station Project that, after seven contentious years, is finally getting off the ground—literally.
The Common Station is meant to link the LRT Line 1, the MRT Line 3, and the proposed MRT Line 7, serving a great many rail commuters who can now interconnect seamlessly in a station to be built overhead between SM North and Ayala-run Trinoma. It is, to be sure, a feat of diplomacy and compromise, as much as of governance. The project is set to start by this first quarter.
After many years’ delay and litigation, the DOTr has also been able to issue drivers’ licenses. As part of the same drive to speed up the implementation of pending projects, the DOTr will also soon start bidding for the information technology services that Stradcom used to provide to the Land Transportation Office. After Stradcom won a TRO when its contract expired, essential services were severely affected, but favorable court decisions now allow the DOtr to start bidding for these services.
There are many more projects waiting for completion, if not just action. Regional airports to serve hubs in key regions are either being upgraded or started. Radar technology in local airports, which would allow the landing of aircraft even at night, is being put in place. Tugade is also bent on activating rail projects, and not just the President’s dream of a rail system in Mindanao, but also commuter rails to ease traffic on the road.
Indeed, a full plate awaits Tugade at the start of the year, and not just the proverbial death threats.
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