Impatient about patience
One thing I love about Filipinos is their incredible patience. One thing I hate about Filipinos is their infuriatingly high level of patience. They will stand for ages patiently waiting, never complaining. I only wish I could be so tolerant. I can’t; I complain or walk away.
But it is not admirable when it comes to traffic. We should have no patience for this. We should be demanding action, insisting that excuses won’t be tolerated. Yet here we are, some 16 months later, and a bill that would allow the government to bypass the need for public bidding and to enter specialized contracts like negotiated procurement, prevent the lower courts from issuing temporary restraining orders and injunctions, and harmonize the laws of the local government units when it comes to traffic, is still sitting in Congress, unacted upon. Why? The President had certified it as urgent although he did not subsequently push it. But he shouldn’t have to. The kilometric lines of suffering Filipinos at train stations should be reason enough for Congress to act.
I fully agree with the detailed questioning, particularly in the Senate, to ensure that there will be no room for abuse — something far too easy to do if the wrong people are involved. But the key people, the President and the transportation secretary, aren’t. They are both honest men—and, I think, able to spot and stop thievery. Anyway, we can monitor projects.
On Edsa we have 17 mayors, 17 different sets of road regulations that the Metro Manila Development Authority has to deal with, exacerbated by the involvement of the Land Transportation Office, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, and L-whatever. No one voice controls it all. It should be Transportation Secretary Art Tugade, but it isn’t. Let’s make it so it is.
There have been calls for the resignation of Tugade, supposedly because he’s doing nothing to fix the MRT3 catastrophe. He’s not? Didn’t he cancel the maintenance contract with the dubious Buri (Busan Universal Rail Inc.) and taken over oversight and management? This can only be a transitory, and hopefully short, transit solution. There have been extensive talks between Tugade and Japanese government officials on how to resolve the MRT3 catastrophe (a legacy of the last administration that it must be held accountable for). And an agreement will be signed in December on Japanese assistance into bringing MRT3 back into full working condition.
But if the Department of Transportation is forced to go to public bidding, Filipino patience will be sorely tested. It must, simply must, be a negotiated deal. As I’ve long argued, as has everyone else, just give it back to Sumitomo/Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Don’t mess about, just do it. MRT3 worked with no complaints, no breakdowns, no severed limbs when Sumitomo maintained it. (That poor, poor woman. Her arm was reattached, but can she use it? Is the government not just paying her hospital fees but also giving her assistance to lead a full productive life again?) So it’s a no-brainer: Give it back to people of proven competence.
That’s the direction Tugade would like to take.
The simplest solution is just to settle out of court the arbitration case with Metro Rail Transit Corp. (MRTC), and have it contract Sumitomo. Which it can do directly under the contract. Go back to the old system that worked for 12 years. Or MRTC could sell to a third party, and this is a discussed possibility. Whichever it is, MRT3 should be back to full operation in a couple of years, but with noticeable improvement in just a few months.
Whichever way it goes, action is expected before Christmas.
Another area where action is finally happening is an underground metro subway system. An agreement was signed by the Philippine and Japanese governments during the Asean Summit. There will be 13 stations, with completion by 2024. Travel time from Quezon City to Naia 3 will be down to 30 minutes from two hours. But—and I love this — there will be a partial opening with three stations by 2019 when — surprise, surprise — we’ll have elections. Ah, the joys of politics.
I appeal to Congress: Pass the proposed emergency powers law now. Don’t be an excuse for delay; let the administration prove its worth, or not.
E-mail: [email protected] Read my previous columns: www.wallacebusinessforum.com.
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