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A year gone by

12:07 AM December 24, 2015

Somehow the years go too quickly these days. I wonder if the world is spinning faster, or I’ve been busier, or, horrors, getting older, so it just seems quicker. Whatever, the year is over and what do we have to show for it?

Top of the list for me is traffic. I’m thoroughly fed up with a government that can’t keep traffic moving. And can’t because it just refuses to do the simple things that could greatly help. An example: A few nights ago we were stuck for 20 minutes at just one intersection because the two traffic aides had no idea how to maximize traffic flow. It was obvious they hadn’t been trained to maximize volume. Or another simple one I’ve complained of ever so often: Put up a barrier on Edsa so vehicles coming from the Boulevard can’t cut across the voluminous traffic to enter the bottom gate of Edsa. There are ever so many actions that I, Eddie Yap and others have suggested, that haven’t been done.

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Then there’s the matter of driver’s licenses and number plates. I have two pieces of paper: One is my driver’s license and the other is my voter’s registration. A simple plastic card is not available for either of them. On licenses, read this from a friend: “Today I received my brand new license! A few things to note: apparently I am not born yet (expect to arrive in 2049), I only weigh the equivalent of 120 lbs (must be the result of my diet and exercise regime). I have however shrunk a bit (I am listed at 5 feet now instead of my previous height of 5-10. I also acquired Filipino nationality (I intend to claim senior benefits now!). The home address is wrong too, but that is minor as I don’t expect LTO visitors. At least the LTO got the gender right! Wheeuh! More fun here indeed…”

A government that can’t do the simple day-to-day things one should take for granted is no government at all. I’m sorry, Mr. President, but I would never allow such lapses in my company. You shouldn’t either.

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The year started with the Mamasapano massacre (and, Mr. President, it was a massacre). Also in Mindanao, Glencore pulled out of Tampakan; a $6-billion investment was lost because the government wouldn’t support mining.

Then there’s the MRT-3 that is in worse shape at year’s end than when the year started, and it was bad then.

For five years, simplification of the registration of a business has been promised, but improvement in the ease of doing business in the country, as shown by the results of the annual IFC-WB surveys, has been marginal at best.

Probably one of the worst things has been the arbitrary violation of contracts, and we’ve detailed these in a separate report (to be published by the Inquirer shortly). It’s a terrible indictment of any government. It’s one the President has six months to fix, and urgently should.

But it’s the yearend, with Christmas tomorrow, so we need some happy thoughts. And Mr. Aquino has done well in several areas. The Apec disrupted us all, but it was a smooth success. Twenty-one of the world’s leaders visited and reached conclusions successfully and peacefully. It was just unfortunate that it happened at the same time as that horrific massacre in Paris that stole the headlines—as it certainly should have.

Equally successful has been the President’s determination to stop China’s intrusion into Philippine territories, with the agreement by the Permanent Court of Arbitration to hear the case.

The to-be-applauded concentration by the President on reducing corruption continued with the filing of more cases against corrupt politicians and others. The failure here is the court system that leaves these criminals free to continue their crimes.

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Congress did its job, or at least part of it. It passed into law about a dozen bills of national importance (including one to make me a Filipino). The best for me was the creation of a Department of Information Communications and Technology (DICT), which was forwarded to the President last week. I just hope he accepts and signs it into law, as every stakeholder has asked for.

But what didn’t get through was the relaxation of the restrictions on foreigners enshrined in the Constitution. There seems to be just a complete inability of the President to recognize the huge benefits that it could have brought to the economy and the people. I am nonplussed as to why Mr. Aquino resisted this. Again, everyone involved wanted it, but he didn’t. So in this dictatorial democracy, it didn’t pass. Neither did the proposed Freedom of Information Act—promised in his campaign, but ignored in his term.

A deal with the United States was agreed on to allow greater acceptance of American forces here. It’s something that I think is very important given China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea. But that deal has been challenged as the Senate believes it is a treaty that needs its concurrence. I agree, but whether it does or not, inter-branch courtesy says you’d ask for it. Mind you, if the Senate had kept the US bases in Clark and Subic, I very much doubt China would have had the courage to act the way it has in recent years.

I could go on but space doesn’t allow it (I actually had to cut much of what I wanted to say). Looking back, it’s been a year of stability in a world in turmoil, a year where some was done but much, too much, wasn’t.

The Philippines is well regarded in the world today; in the past it was ignored. That’s real progress that will help the next president.

* * *

There is no finer honor you can give a man than to call him a gentleman. Cesar Bautista was a gentleman, a fine, honest, humble gentleman who served the Philippines with true distinction. We all have to go eventually, and so I suppose it was Cesar’s turn. But we will surely miss his quiet demeanor and his sheer pleasantness.

We have lost a friend. Goodbye, my friend.

* * *

E-mail: wallace_likeitis@wbf.ph. Read my previous columns: www.wallacebusinessforum.com.

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TAGS: Apec 2015, Cesar Bautista, Department of Information Communications and Technology, driver’s license, Freedom of Information Act, Glencore, Mamasapano, MRT
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