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Gov’t heads plan for next election only

/ 12:14 AM September 24, 2015

Does a crippling lack of vision and strategic planning ability grip our Cabinet members, senators, congressmen and local government officials once they are in office? This seems to be the case for the past 50 years. Or is the allegation about oil and automotive lobbies controlling Congress true? Why did all government administrations, past and present, fail to foresee the obvious and prepare for the rise in population and the higher volume of people needing to move from place to place? And why were the problems in urban rail transit and interisland shipping not addressed continuously and aggressively?

In July 2014, Congress almost failed to renew the franchise of the Philippine National Railways (PNR). In earlier years, the Tutuban and Paco stations were destroyed and replaced with malls and other structures not meant to serve the growing need for mass transport facilities. Some PNR managers in the past 50 years were reported to have milked that railroad company, once the best in Asia, to the point of failure. The new railroad to northern Luzon Gloria Arroyo almost started to build was reportedly not of the broad-gauge type, guaranteeing from the very beginning an obsolete system useless for high-speed trains.

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Metro Manila’s streets are hopelessly overcrowded with diesel- and gasoline-powered trucks and cars that are still increasing in number at triple the rate seen in 2014. The poorly planned and executed Manila truck ban caused congestion in Manila ports, to the point where foreign shipping companies threatened to bypass the Philippines if the problem would not be solved.

An efficient railway system from Manila to the north and the south of Manila and to Subic and Batangas could have avoided the paralyzing congestion of Metro Manila streets caused by delivery trucks. An extensive Manila urban light rail system could have prevented car and bus overcrowding in our limited city road networks, a problem that costs the economy some P2.4 billion a day in losses.

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Joko Widodo, the incumbent president of Indonesia who was elected in 2014, saw the same population and geographic challenges Indonesia would have to overcome, and drew up his priorities clearly from the outset. In a globally-televised one-on-one interview, he declared unequivocally, “More railroads and sea vessels, lower priority to cars, and an end to the gasoline subsidy.”

In the past 50 years, couldn’t our bureaucrats, local government chiefs, department heads and legislators similarly have planned farther than the next election?

—BENJAMIN AGUNOD, [email protected]

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TAGS: 2016 Elections, Indonesia, Joko Widodo, Metro Manila, Philippine National Railways, strategic planning, traffic, Vision
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