Posts Tagged Issues

The Kinetic Energy

Luzon mining camp, 1899of colonial discovery hit the Philippines in 1521. The billard queue is long gone but the balls keep moving. Just a preview of a new movie about Lumads in Mindanao shows this (link). Loggers come into the hunting grounds of the Manobo, who finally get sucked into the middle of armed conflict. Uniformed men bullying Lumads are heard speaking Visayan, telling their commanding officer who speaks Tagalog and tells them to stop that he is still naive about the realities of the conflict. A scene that shows one of the many ethnic hierarchies of the Philippines in a nutshell.

Examples of the greed of early encomenderos, those granted land by the Spanish crown in the beginning of colonization, are documented (link): Several principales from Ylagua (Dagua) testified that Salgado had charged them one chicken each in addition to the regular tribute. This, it was claimed, caused “much damage and loss to their wealth.” Principales already being the Filipinos of higher rank – I wonder if low-ranking Filipinos would have dared complain to a royal Spanish tax collector. Even today extortion seems to be practiced by those who have the power to (link).

A pattern seems to have been established then. The pattern of taking instead of building, the easy road to wealth. The path of least resistance. A path that does not create long-term wealth at all. Mine the soil, don’t build anything with the minerals. Sell sugar, coconuts and tobacco abroad – but don’t bother to make soap out of coconut, or at least even cigars or rum like in Spanish times. Let your OFW and migrant relatives work, and spend their money at the mall instead of building something at home. Might be extorted by police or NPA anyway, so who knows it might be wiser?


Two men from Spain – the Roman emperors Trajan and Hadrian – played a decisive role in the conquest of gold-rich ancient Dacia. Affluent Romans liked to settle in Spain, while the Romans who went to Dacia were usually soldiers, adventurers and convicts – the roots of what became Romania. In 2013, protests against the planned Roșia Montană gold mine were the roots of a civic society movement (link) that ousted a Prime Minister in 2015 and a Minister of Justice just days ago. Decades after ousting a dictator, after decades of backlashes, corruption and populism.

A country with more than 10% of its people working abroad. A country that is home to a lot of business process outsourcing, as its people have learned to be flexible and multilingual in their history. Also a country that has been in the vicious cycle of poverty and corruption for very long (link) with people speaking of: constant, everyday bribery — at hospitals, schools and public institutions. And yet a young man says: A new generation has emerged that doesn’t keep drawers full of bribery presents. Everything can be shattered in the next 10 days.


Seeing is believing. Could more Romanians have seen with their own eyes, in places like Western Europe, what real value productive energy can create? That it isn’t just take or be taken from? That just spending energy taking from the earth without reaping – and from others – makes most people POOR, long-term? Possibly those who have understood have begun to reach a critical mass. This critical mass is not yet there in the Philippines, which seems to be evolving backwards or sideways in recent months. But one never knows what surprises kinetic energy may hold in store.

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, 12. February 2017

 

 

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The Colonial Syndrome

Itinerario legazpiwas mentioned by President Duterte just hours ago in Bacolod – I watched the end of his speech. It referred to some of his pet peeves, but still sounds more like his problem and that of many Filipinos. From skin whiteners so many Filipinos use (looking like too pale ghosts) in the Philippines, to the silly memes some Duterte supporters made showing “Hillary supporting Duterte”. The thin-skinned nature of Filipino pride when the foreign press reports on the country, or a foreign commenter says something not so nice, is the other aspect of the Filipino colonial syndrome.

The teenage nation

The immature aspect of that syndrome is that is takes the foreign, especially the “white” view of things, either as something to be followed or to be opposed. A lot of the anti-Western rhetoric of Duterte recently is similar to things one has heard both from Filipino nationalists and leftists for many decades. There is of course the new aspect of wanting to be allied with Russia and China, which is of course stark opposition to the formerly very pro-American course of the Philippines, somewhat like a teenager wearing exactly the clothes and saying things parents do not stand for.

“Wir sind die, vor denen unsere Eltern uns immer gewarnt haben” – was an activist slogan in Germany before: “we are those whom our parents warned us about”. Duterte’s provocations remind me of some of the provocations of that crowd from the 1960s to 1980s, which used leftist slogans. From the 1990s onward, Nazi and nationalistic symbols were used to provoke, by a new crowd. That Duterte’s Hitler provocation was taken seriously – the Philippine Ambassador was summoned on Friday – but not commented on by higher-ranking German officials at all is not surprising.

Colonialism and independence

A Filipino commented on Facebook that it is interesting that Duterte seems to take a “white man” – Hitler – as a role model, isn’t that very colonial mentality? It is indeed also very colonial to rely on the army and the police in controlling the archipelago – the Guardia Civil already did that, just like its American-era successor, the Philippine Constabulary, which Rafael Crame helped build up. It is also very colonial to lean on a new sponsor – very possibly China this time, much like Aguinaldo decided to gamble on the United States who did bring him to Manila from Hong Kong.

It would be independent foreign policy to strengthen regional alliances like Indonesia and Vietnam, which is one good thing being done already. Overcoming colonialism would also be helping the people in the slums achieve a better livelihood, instead of just conducting the usual drug raids at night (evidenced by videos widely available) and thereby causing many casualties among the poor. Allying with resurgent powers like Russia or rising powers like China may lead to more dependency than working with no longer colonial powers (the EU) or the overextended superpower USA.

Overcoming 400 years

In his Bacolod speech, President Duterte mentioned 400 years of colonialism. The Philippines indeed became a colony very early, a collection of chiefdoms that submitted to a colonial government in Manila, which is the inheritance of the Republic. The President’s powers are similar to those of a colonial governor, and every Philippine President so far has sought the allegiance of local politicians, much like Rajas sought the allegiance of datus in the past. In fact former allies of Mar Roxas have recently moved to PDP-Laban, much like datus flocking towards a new overlord.

And there are still a lot of hang-ups, especially in the relationship of Filipinos to “white people”, who are often alternately admired and hated. Or by some, liked when they come with money or lend money to the relatives of their Filipina wife for example, but secretly seen with disdain especially when they ask for repayment of debts. Or even openly threatened with a bolo or a gun. Strangely enough, there are many Filipinos who bully or deride those nice to them, and submit to those who bully them – foreigner or local. The datu culture in its peculiar, colonial deformation.

Then there is this strange oscillation between trying to ingratiate foreigners and then being rude to them. Something I have observed in many Filipino-foreign contexts, not just recent outbursts. This is of course also an offshoot of the deformed datu culture, where you are either master or servant, never just simply friend or ally. In these aspects, President Duterte truly reflects a lot of Filipino attitudes in a certain segment of the population. Acting just normal, not domineering or submissive, is that possible at all in the future? Time will tell. Filipinos will have to sort that out.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 2 October 2016

 

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Uncluttering a System

Some clutter on a keyboardshould be the main priority of whatever reforms are implemented – Federalism or not. It just takes a short look at House Bills of the Philippine Congress (link) to see they are wasting a lot of time:

  • HB00007 AN ACT INCREASING THE BED CAPACITY OF THE ROXAS DISTRICT HOSPITAL IN THE MUNICIPALITY OF ROXAS, PROVINCE OF ORIENTAL MINDORO, FROM FIFTY TO ONE HUNDRED BEDS, AND APPROPRIATING FUNDS THEREFOR, AMENDING FOR THE PURPOSE REPUBLIC ACT 7857
  • HB00015 AN ACT ESTABLISHING THE SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONE AND FREEPORT IN THE PROVINCE OF ILOCOS SUR, CREATING FOR THIS PURPOSE THE ILOCOS SUR SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONE AND FREEPORT AUTHORITY, APPROPRIATING FUNDS THEREFOR AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES
  • HB00017 AN ACT CREATING TWO ADDITIONAL BRANCHES OF THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT IN THE PROVINCE OF ILOCOS SUR, ONE FOR THE CITY OF VIGAN AND ANOTHER FOR THE MUNICIPALITY OF STO. DOMINGO, AMENDING FOR THE PURPOSE REPUBLIC ACT NO. 7472 ENTITLED ‘AN ACT AMENDING SECTION 1 OF THE REPUBLIC ACT NO. 7154 ENTITLED ‘AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION FOURTEEN OF BATAS PAMBANSA BILANG 129 OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE JUDICIARY REORGANIZATION ACT OF 1981’ BY RESTORING THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT BRANCH IN THE MUNICIPALITY OF CANDON AND CREATING TWO ADDITIONAL REGIONAL TRIAL COURT BRANCHES IN THE PROVINCE OF ILOCOS SUR, AND APPROPRIATING FUNDS THEREFORE
  • HB00030 AN ACT PROVIDING FOR THE UPGRADE AND MODERNIZATION OF THE J.R. BORJA CITY MEMORIAL HOSPITAL AS AN EXTENSION HOSPITAL OF THE NORTHERN MINDANAO MEDICAL CENTER (NMMC) IN CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, PROVINCE OF MISAMIS ORIENTAL AND APPROPRIATING FUNDS THEREFOR
  • HB00031 AN ACT INCREASING THE BED CAPACITY OF THE NORTHERN MINDANAO MEDICAL CENTER IN CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, AMENDING FOR THE PURPOSE REPUBLIC ACT NO. 7938, APPROPRIATING FUNDS THEREFOR AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES
  • HB00032 AN ACT ESTABLISHING A CITY PUBLIC COLLEGE IN CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY TO BE KNOWN AS THE CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY PUBLIC COLLEGE AND APPROPRIATING FUNDS THEREFOR

ENOUGH, ENOUGH!! Aside from the fact that they use large letters on that page, just like Internet trolls, these matters rightfully should be decided more locally:

  • matters like healthcare and education facilities as well as economic incentives belong somewhere at the regional, provincial or municipal level I think
  • a certain percentage of the taxes resulting from regions, provinces, municipalities/cities should I think go to them, for them to be more flexible
  • there are provincial and municipal councils to decide on how funds are spent – democratic checks – might regional councils also be an idea?
  • if one does not trust the councils at whatever level, then the local level would be a place to start with Freedom of Information
  • Plebiscites at these levels might be an idea as well – including the power to impeach governors and mayors if needed

Federalism might overwhelm the Philippine system and not solve its problems – maybe focused decentralization is needed more. Some ideas:

  • The implementation of education, justice, healthcare, economic incentives and more are State matters in Germany. The Federation can concentrate on its more important responsibilities.
  • it does not necessarily have to be federal – why can there not be regional councils? After some years of experience, one could still decide on whether to make them states. Not rush in.
  • Tax brackets, nurses pay and other things have to be decided on by Congress as well. Why not index them in the future, based on buying power? NEDA could revise the index every year.

One should not forget that the Philippines spans a distance similar to the one from Oslo to Rome, going from North to South – and Congress decides even on the naming of streets!

Here in Europe people often hate “Brussels” – the Commission – for deciding on many things in member countries. But these are mostly standards – not where to open schools and hospitals. Corporations may decide to centralize certain things for efficiency – but a country burdening its legislature with that level of detail is of course inefficient – time to unclutter the system?

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 26 May 2016

 

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Revolution in Mind

Braid 4permis not what some think I have in mind. It is a revolution of the mind that I have in mind. It is what I think the Philippines needs. All other forms of revolution so far have failed. And will fail. Rizal lets his (by then anti-)hero Simoun say at the end of El Filibusterismo: what if the slaves of today become the tyrants of tomorrow? Now wasn’t he right like oh so often? Who has read the Noli and the Fili properly? Or The Philippines, A Century Hence – or Rizal’s translation of Schiller’s Wilhelm Tell. He seems like a mere statue today. He died at the age of 35. His thinking discontinued.

Theory and practice

Rote learning is the norm in the Philippines. Theoretical education is too divorced from practice. Common sense looked upon with disdain. The people on the ground are not listened to by the theoreticians, since they often do not have the capability to express themselves in an erudite manner. The people on the ground do not get what the theoreticians want, and often the theoreticians do not break it down properly for them. Like Joe America wrote in a recent comment, the middle is missing. Those on the ground walk on foot. The cars of the erudite have wheels above ground.

  • The 1987 Constitution is beautiful in theory, but fails to fulfill even the first two ideas of its preamble, striving for a just and humane society.
  • Endlessly detailed discussions on legalisms in so many different recent cases, but the law is effectively not there in many parts of the country.
  • Metro Manila’s business district has all modern amenities while huge parts of the country hardly have Internet access at a reasonable speed.
  • International studies are commissioned, for example on traffic, while the expertise and common sense of local experts is often ignored.
  • International contractors are taken in for projects, but there is often no strategy for building local expertise in a step-by-step manner.

The present programs of DOST like the DOST AGT, the Roadtrain, the Diwata Microsatellite, the iGovPhil government IT project, or Project NOAH shine as exceptions to this sad rule. The DOST projects also took small steps to success, but with an overarching goal in mind. Wanting big successes at once does not work. Forget going federal-parliamentary in one step for example.

Models and reality

Hel spit - old mapWe all use mental models to simplify the reality that we see. To be able to process it in a reasonable timeframe. But mental models can become outdated. Old nationalistic mental models of the United States as the threat to national sovereignty ignore how the USA has changed, how the parameters of the global game have changed, and who is now occupying islands near Palawan. Old leftist mental models ignore that there are much better ways of creating a level playing field, and that one has to create better habits among the disadvantaged so they can use these new chances. Old rightist mental models of repression ignore that it has been proven that repression creates an adversarial relationship between citizens and the state, especially if it comes with human rights abuses – that modern policing can involve the community and value human rights without losing its necessary effectivity. It is like satellite photos may cause old maps to have to be redrawn.

Or surveyor’s measurements. It is very important to check assumptions. The adjust the map in one’s mind of the territory that is reality. It will never encompass everything. 90% is enough.

Trial and error

The Romanians have one of the fastest Internets in the world thanks to so-called neighborhood networks. A bit similar to how some Romanian gypsies and Filipino slum dwellers improvise their electricity. Now I am sure that the educated Makati crowd, or the experts at UP would have looked down upon such a suggestion with disdain, since they are world-class and not like slum dwellers at all.

Trial and error is so often the way to success. The DOST AGT in UP did not amount to much while the one in Bicutan is much better. Remember Bill Gates’ first DOS versions?Gluehlampe 01 KMJ

But for that, one must be willing to make mistakes, accept them and learn from them. Edison tried so many designs until he finally succeeded in getting his incandescent lamp working. Good he did not grow up in a culture that immediately calls out minor mistakes, which Filipinos do. While ignoring major mistakes and those who are shameless enough to justify them as being right. A culture that calls to crucify the earnest and release the shameless is not conducive to real development. In my German IT project experience, we have corrected mistakes and moved on to do better.

A culture that seeks to learn progresses. A culture that seeks to punish stays put or regresses. The real revolution that brings lasting effects is the one that happens in the mind.

Driving the BRP Sierra Madre into a reef was a stroke of genius. Using the oldest ship in the navy to block Ayungin Shoal. Filipino ingenuity can if given the chance.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 5 February 2016

 

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About Philippine Priorities

This is about a comment about Filipino priorities by Singaporean banker chempo at Joe America’s blog. It has made me seriously ask: what priorities does the Philippines have?

To fight corruption?

Merlion, Merlion Park, Singapore - 20130315-04This is the relevant part of chempo’s comment:

If the objective is to help fight corruption — I can name other priorities —
– Anti-Dynasty Act
– Banking Secrecy Act — repeal or amend to permit criminal investigations,
– Persons-with-criminal-records-cannot-sit-in-congress/senate- or- some- other- high- institutions Act,
– Anti-universal Sufferage Act — no person or institution can demand group endorsement of candidates in an election,
– Anti-Corruption Unit Act — set up an independent body with wide ranging powers to investigate.
– Anti-bloody-nonsense TRO Act
– Anti-Representation Act — charge all giver and taker, tax-disallow representation expenses.
– Anti-switching-of-parties-after-election Act
– Serious-Notarisation Act — have proper gazetted lawyers to do this, not in a side street that advertises “Notary Services” & “Photocopy Services” on the same sign board, parties need to appear personally with ID and proper attire (respect for the law and a solemn event) — cannot send messengers.
ETC ETC ETC — give me time, I can give you 100 priorities.

To dispense justice?

Well, I answered and named two more priorities for the country:

1) Legal reform – the Criminal Code Draft of 2014 was just the beginning as is somewhere in that goddam lazy Congress.

2) Justice reform – Rizal said more than a hundred years ago that the reason why the English are respected in their possesions is their swift and speedy justice system. He was criticizing Spanish judges and the Penal Code of 1884 which is STILL today’s Filipino law.

To look good?

APEC 2015 TrafficTo be fair, the Congress and Senate have finished quite a few laws in the past years and the President signed them.  I did give credit to this here:

At least there is now a Philippine Competition Commission, meaning the Philippine Competition Act is being implemented. We worried about IRRs some months ago.

BUT I have a caveat – I read that Philippines EU FTA (free trade agreement) talks have started. Guess what one requirement of the EU was for FTA – you got it, competition legislation and implementation. We Filipinos – me included – need pressure to get moving.

A few reactions

Joe America’s answer – for which one must remember that former NEDA Secretary Balicasan, a man of high competence and integrity, is now heading the Philippine Competition Commision:

Yes, I was impressed that they met the deadlines. Commission formed, a good data-oriented, analytical head appointed. Saved me a blog article to complain about it, because I was tracking it. Kudos to both Aquinos, senatorial and presidential.

In the publications of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Manila there is an an article about Aquino’s 2015 SONA which specifically mention the Philippine Competition Act:

The Philippines has seen steady economic growth in the past years. In addition to that, the new Competition Act is a positive signal for international investors.
Back to the beginning of chempo’s comment, which I quote which it is appropriate in this context:
We have to ask ourselves first and foremost, what is the objective of the FOI in the case of Philippines? My base feeling is it’s just a showpiece — to show the world there, we too now have an FOI. We have joined the league of “clean” nations.

Figuring out things

Bmw welt + headquaterMy New Year article mentions the clean and dirty kitchen in the houses of those Filipinos who can afford it:

Because of colonialism, the Philippines have had the clean and dirty kitchen everywhere. The clean kitchen to be shown to guests, especially foreigners, and the dirty kitchen were the maids cook. Daang Matuwid was theoretically about honesty, about cleaning up the dirty kitchen. The Ombudsman seems to be hyperactive in smoking out corruption; BIR seems to have been cleaned while Customs remains a problem. And yes, charges were pressed in the Tanim-Bala scam. BBL was not handled well, and has failed. The MRT and Manila traffic not handled with enough foresight.

Walls were built to hide squatters from both visitors of the UNCTAD V conference in Manila during Marcos times, and the Pope. Does it sound similar to some things that happened this year? Yes. There are more honest Filipinos now than then in my opinion, but brutal honesty must increase. Not to hit back at “the other side”, but to solve the many problems the country has. The country is in the process of maturing, and maturity means adressing issues without resorting to passive-aggressive sullenness or denial on one side and aggressive blaming on the other.

Get Real Philippines is looking at President Aquino’s dirty kitchen all the time, while ignoring Marcos’ much dirtier kitchen. President Aquino, by virtue of having been in the United States and his mother having been there too, does have a bit of an American attitude about kitchens I think. Just like some of Aquino’s supporters have bit of an American attitude to dogs. Could this be the problem of Daang Matuwid, and most especially the Roxas campaign? The group that runs it is definitely well-meaning and seems to know what it is doing at least in theory. But they live in the clean kitchen part of the country. The Fast Forward video ad of Mar Roxas shows it clearly. And Korina Sanchez nearly fits the stereotype of the old Apo Hiking Society Song “Ang Syota Kong Burgis” (my high-class girlfriend): di pupuwede, sakay sa jeepney, sobrang usok at sikip. She can’t rid a jeepney with me, it’s too smoky and crowded.

Has Mar Roxas ever taken the MRT to work from Cubao where he lives to DILG which is EDSA Corner Quezon Avenue? Former Interior Minister Günther Beckstein of Bavaria took the Tram No. 19 every day to work. Angela Merkel goes shopping in the evenings – accompanied by some security people of course – and cooks for her husband in the evening. To Filipinos who can’t believe this, much like Europeans did not believe Marco Polo when he came back: the thing about Beckstein I just remember, and about Angela Merkel is in TIME magazine – there you have a US source:

Unified Germany is a relatively new democracy. It has no finished official residence, and if it did, Merkel would continue to live in the central Berlin apartment she shares with her husband, whose name is on the buzzer. “I always show it to Latin American visitors,” says Wissmann, who was Transportation Minister when Merkel ran the environment department. “I don’t know if it’s 100 square meters or 120, but that’s for a world leader. She is living modestly.”

The most powerful woman in the world does her own grocery shopping, dragging a small security contingent to the German equivalent of Kroger’s. “If you have good luck, you meet her on a Friday afternoon at the supermarket buying a bottle of white wine and a fish for dinner for her and her husband,” says Wissmann. “That’s not a show.”

I did like Duterte a bit when I first heard about him, the fact that he dresses simply and talks to the people of Davao regularly. But some of his statements have shown that he is too much from the dirty kitchen of the Philippines. So what does this have to do with priorities? I can only quote one of my favorite movies. This is from the end of Demolition Man with Sylvester Stallone:

John Spartan: Whoa, Whoa. I’ll tell you what gonna do:
John Spartan: [to Chief Earle] Why don’t you get a little dirty?
John Spartan: [to Edgar] You a lot clean.
John Spartan: And somewhere in the middle… I don’t know. You’ll figure it out.
Alfredo Garcia: Fuckin’ A!
John Spartan: [impressed] Well put.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 3. February 2016

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Kabuhayan, Kaligtasan, Karunungan, Kakayahan, Kaunlaran

are Grace Poe’s priorities mentioned in an Inquirer article, plus two I added. The Inquirer headline is very unfair: Poe admits she has her own ‘KKK’. In the age of social media, many people only read the headline. Or they are in a hurry, and the bad impression stays. This is why – even though I did not want to write about the elections anymore – have decided to tackle the content of Poe’s ideas. I have already mentioned my preferences in a previous article. They are still the same. But still the good points of all candidates must be considered. It is about improving the country.

What I like are the three points, because they are Kabuhayan (Livelihood), Kaligtasan (Safety) and Karunungan (Knowledge). In my article about The Road Ahead, I looked at the Maslow hierarchy of needs. All three points address the basics people need in order to have minimum opportunities. From Poe’s suggestions, let us see what possibilities there are to enhance them.

Kabuhayan

Kompendium-the-best-of-german-mittelstand-erschienenFrom the Inquirer article: On livelihood, Poe said inclusive growth could not be achieved without jobs that would empower people, and jobs could not be created without the proper economic climate. “You can’t have investors if you don’t recalibrate your tax bracket, if you don’t reconsider foreign ownership,” she said.

I think that the major driver of jobs are SMEs – Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises. The percentage of jobs in SMEs is very high in prosperous countries like Japan, Korea and Switzerland. Southern Germany has a lot of SMEs – from high-quality specialized machine tool factories, lens manufacturers, suppliers of automotive parts etc. that give jobs to people in the countryside, and the butchers, bakers, car repair jobs etc. that provide goods and services to the local people. Traditionally the focus was too much on big multinationals in the Philippines. The thing is, big multinationals are fine, but they can also leave. There are so many own industries the Philippines could have. One could start with native capabilities. Lambanog is starting to be a in drink in Germany, because it is being marketed like Bacardi rum. Filipino handicrafts, if done well, are beautiful and could find markets in Europe where people like original and cultured artifacts. Years ago Indonesian classic furniture, very similar to what Filipino native carpenters produce, was the craze in Germany. Trying to be too “modern” all the time is not always the right way to go.

Good thing there are now Negosyo Centers in the Philippines, thanks to the Go Negosyo Act. And a Philippine Competition Commision to prevent the oligarchs from crushing the less powerful. Because this is not what Adam Smith had in mind when he wrote about the Wealth of Nations. It is I think more like the prosperous world of Southern Germany or Switzerland, where people have opportunities if they do their work well – as engineers, as technicians, as butchers, as bakers, as mechanics. All businesses there are taxed locally also – so LGUs compete to get businesses.

Kaligtasan

Juan Carlos Nacul charla penalGrace Poe said she would hire private survey firms to determine which barangays have drug and crime problems and she would provide incentives to barangay officials who could handle these problems. She would keep in touch with these officials about those problems, she said. I wonder if delegating things to the barangay is enough. Incentives could lead to covering things up. The reputation of barangay officials is not exactly the best, even if I do not want to do those who are earnest injustice. But the idea with survey firms is good. Undercover work might be even better.

There is Oplan Lambat-Sibat which tries to address the drug problem by going for what would be called “High Value Targets” in another context. The big fishes. Just addressing drugs at the local level is not enough if one does not do what is necessary to cut of the supply. PNP initiatives for community policing that are already starting would help at the local level. It might even make sense to give witness protection and relocation to local drug dealers if they help catch the big fish – or even make the most savvy of them resident experts, like the FBI does with hackers, or did with the famous swindler Frank Abagnale.

Poe also said Kaligtasan.. refers not only to security but also to health. Regional and provincial hospitals, especially in the 20 poorest provinces, must get the proper equipment and the necessary number of doctors to attend to the medical needs of people in their areas, she said. Good. I don’t know what the DOH has been doing, so I cannot compare to her programs.

Justice is not mentioned in Poe’s programs. The only candidate who has mentioned simplification of laws so far is Rodrigo Duterte, as I mentioned in my article about his program. Filipino laws are a tangle of Spanish laws, American laws, and laws from different Republics. The principle of legal certainty is probably often violated. Clear laws make it less easy for attorneys to discuss endlessly about which law is to be applied, and for court proceedings to concentrate on whether guilt can be proven beyond reasonable doubt. It would speed up justice, increasing confidence in it.

Rizal himself said in The Philippines, A Century Hence: The thing that makes the English most respected in their possessions is their strict and speedy justice, so that the inhabitants repose entire confidence in the judges. The DOJ Criminal Code Draft of 2014 intends to replace the old Penal Code, which although revised in based on the one from 1884 that Rizal already criticized.

Karunungan

8 factores predictivosPoe also mentioned that the government’s scholarship program therefore must be fully funded, and a standard lunch program for children in public elementary school. The lunch program is nice, because there have been stories about how the otherwise excellent Pantawid Pamilya or 4Ps program has been misused by parents. Lunch is an incentive for the kids to really go to school.

I disagree with having to send all students to college, and tend to agree with the K-12 program which makes good professionals of people without having to give them a college degree. There is the TVET track which teaches vocational skills and integrates with TESDA. The K-12+ program which is German-sponsored is about Dual Training, the successful German model for creating highly skilled workers which are the backbone of its industrial economy and its many industrial SMEs. The academic track has the Accounting, Business and Management (ABM) strand, which can replace the overrated “commerce” bachelors from the usual diploma mills and create truly capable office workers instead. There is the Humanities and Social Sciences (HUMSS) strand, which is for those who may later want to take college subjects in that area, and the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Strand (STEM) which is for future engineers and scientists.

And the teaching in local language in the beginning has its reasons – because modern science has found out that the capability to connect theory and practice, to use language effectively to model reality and form concepts based on reality, is built in the first years, and learning immediately in a foreign language impairs this skills. After these skills are learned, they can be transferred to another language – in this case Filipino and English. This addresses a problem in much Filipino thinking – either very complex but divorced from reality, or very concrete but without any system.

Putting things together

Which brings us back to Grace Poe. She has some very modern thinking. Much Filipino thinking is convoluted. Much is either too pragmatic (Duterte) or too theoretical (Santiago) while Poe’s thinking does have two aspects I consider important: top-down and bottom-up. Top-down: she has identified the three major needs of people in a country. Bottom-up: she has identified that certain issues need to be addressed on the ground in a practical way so that theory is not only that, but also works in practice.

What is missing is the middle. I would break down the three points further as follows:

  • Kabuhayan (Livelihood) – business and jobs, social welfare (4Ps for example), entepreneurship (Go Negosyo)
  • Kaligtasan (Safety) – policing, justice, and I think DILG might want to have a place were citizens can complain about LGUs
  • Karunungan (Education) – school lunches, K-12, adult education (maybe even something like the Volkshochschule?)
  • Kakayahan (Capabilities) – infrastructure (internet, transport, facilities), industry, agriculture
  • Kaunlaran (Progress) – science (DOST programs are already excellent), thinking (think tanks for foreign policy, defense etc.), universities (strengthen provincial colleges for example)

I have added two further points because it is not enough just to think of the basics. They must be secured, otherwise the foundation of progress is unstable. But the Philippines has great potential, and it must be harnessed. The subpoints are suggestions, and policies can be developed for each of them. There are 15 subpoints all in all in this suggestion, and 5 main points.

This structure could be used as a way for a President to report on progress using the Internet, with details for the curious. Even with maps of the Philippines to show how these points and subpoints are progressing in every LGU, in every barangay even. Shine a very bright light on everything. Because people still don’t trust the government. Which I understand from history.

Poe and Duterte – also Señeres – are addressing some weaknesses of the government. A good future government should listen. But be competent to be able to deal with it. This is why I am placing my hopes on a Roxas-Robredo tandem – Roxas for competence, Robredo for the people and common sense. If they really work together well, they can do much. But that I have already written.

Further possibilities

I am not a friend of FOI. But I do believe – just like Grace Poe – that the Executive should commit to giving transparent and well-summarized information. Like the Internet progress report and the progress map of the country i suggested. Because FOI would lead to people nitpicking and looking for errors without seeing the big picture. Like a lot of what is happening now on social media.

There could however be a simple version of FOI within LGUs. Give every LGU citizen a logon account to access summarized data about budget, projects and their status. There are already projects like DOST iGovPhil which this could be made a part of – and help build the local software industry beyond just BPO to develop true products to sell internationally. Have a citizen service office in every LGU – run by DILG – that is there to explain things and to register questions and complaints. Take the steam out of the anger that many Filipinos now still feel about their government.

Empower the Filipino. But help understand things better. Filipinos were made ignorant, by colonial masters first, then by the elite. Raise people up. Build confidence for a better future.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 31. January 2016

 

 

 

 

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Bahala na ang Diyos – by Parekoy

Christ in Ravenna (Source: Wikimedia)

Dios mio perdon!

Our generations were taught by our teachers and elders that one of our misguided beliefs is that we entrust our fate so much in faith of God. We disappoint and fail to listen to them though.

Our culture has these wrong comparisons on looking at life. One of them goes this way:

Kung ang ibon ay di pinababayaan ng Diyos tao pa kaya?

The oversimplification that God takes care of a simple bird creature poisons the mindset of our kababayans. They are misled that God takes care of everything and miraculously provides the poor bird his food on a silver platter! The reality is that the poor bird does not believe in any god but relies on his instinct and whatever intelligence it could harness from its tiny brain. Early in the morning it toils, flies, and searches for its food and sustenance.

But most of our unfortunate brothers and sisters, though literate, are not equip with skills that will help them progress beyond survival. They cling to God and the wrong belief that He provides even if they remain seated like a granite monument. Once they experienced hunger and realized that God does not provide, they are pounded by a wrecking ball of reality that indeed they better learn the ways of the bird and start to rely on themselves. For most of our kababayans, it is too late for them and it will take a generation and great odds to hurdle for their kids to climb the walls of poverty and reach a ledge of survival and able to eat three meals a day!

JfObandoSlumsPhilippinesfvf 07

Philippine slum, Obando (source: Wikimedia)

Our culture saddles us and we need to revisit our values and throw away what don’t work, keep those that empower us, and learn to borrow from other cultures why they become economically and politically superior.

One thing that we need to put in the dustbin is our pwede na attitude. Why settle for less if by a little bit more effort and trying we could achieve the norm and if we give our best we achieve the best results.

Another is we are forgiving people to a fault. There is nothing wrong being magnanimous and forgive those who wronged us, but the wrongdoers should be punished first accordingly and do their time and pay for their misdeeds, then we can talk about forgiveness. Our plunderers and politicians take advantage of this abnormality in our psyche and konting paawa and pa-effect na luha, eh pusong mamon na ang karamihang Pilipino at madaling mauto. Marcoses are a living proof on this regard and Erap as well.

But one of the hindrances and biggest culprits is our lack of discipline in our culture! It starts with a simple house cleaning and taking care of our trash. Instead of placing our trash in a proper container and disposal, we throw it to our neighbor’s property or any place but our place. We are even drawn to piss on the wall that has written warnings, Bawal ang umihi dito. We don’t follow simple rules like pumila and be considerate to others who are ahead of us in line. Instead of using the pedestrian lane, we cross our streets and treat them as our oversized patintero playground. Instead of using the overpass walkways, we endanger ourselves by betting with our lives in crossing the busy highways for gaining five minutes of crossing and reaching our destinations. Most of us got our driver’s license by cheating and paid padulas to do away with the actual driving test. Most of us treat our traffic lights as suggestion and not a command to follow. Bending the rules and getting away of not following them is our norm! We justify our little infractions by pointing to our lawmakers who are themselves the breakers of the laws they create! We are really good critics and aware of our politicians’ shenanigans and their customary use of our public money as their private accounts, yet we are proud to get them as our Ninongs and Ninangs in our Kasal o binyag of our kids and wishing that by having these relationships will pave our ways to benefit us in some ways of getting better jobs or ease of doing business.

HK Victoria Park Filipino Migrant Workers

Filipino migrant workers (source: Wikimedia)

When we examine our infractions individually they are little but if we dig deeper the effect of the accumulation of infractions is quite damaging and destroying the very fabric of our society. We are unwittingly tearing ourselves, unnecessarily.

Our OFWs and immigrants can attest that we have the ability to change for the better. We have proven that we are capable of following simple rules and be a good citizen of other countries. We became a different person and awakened our other personality, who is much better than who we were back in our country. We are not only in our spectator capacity but as active participants and contributors to the progress of other nations through the use of our skills and talents. We know our potentials and our capabilities as OFWs and Migrants for we are living proof of our contributions and achievements.

Our challenge is how do we impart to our kababayans our better attitudes and mindsets that are beneficial to our country’s well-being and progress?

Without discipline, we are our own worst enemies!

Parekoy
01-28-2016

Reblog of a posting at Raissa Robles’ Cyber Plaza Miranda by Parekoy.
c/o Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 28. January 2016

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Der Sache wegen

Friedrich Zweite Alt

Friedrich der Große

means because of the matter at hand in German. Now I have been in Germany since 1982, when I left the Philippines where I grew up because of my opposition to the Marcos dictatorship. Now when I, then still a total Pinoy was shocked at how much stricter democratic Germany was than the Marcos dictatorship, and much more orderly. Hardly any jaywalking except for me and other Pinoys who were my first barkada in Germany. Along EDSA near Aurora boulevard in the early 1980s, people not only jaywalked, they used the street when the sidewalks were full, inspite of barriers erected to prevent this. And of course brownouts and water shortages were common, officials took bribes so very often, and people who had connections had it easier. So much for Marcos-era discipline. The Marcos dictatorship was terrifying in its impunity towards its detractors – yet ridiculous in its outward show combined with real inefficiency and incompetence.

The root cause of much Filipino failure is lack of objectivity and dispassionate analysis – Sachlichkeit in German. Sachlichkeit means concentrating on the matter at hand. Not on showing off like Marcos. Not on who is at fault like President Benigno Aquino III sometimes does, with all due respect. Not on whether someone is a former Marcos man or a proper Liberal Party member.  Because Binay was anti-Marcos and pro-Cory, now what has he become? Erap, for all his mistakes, seems to have mellowed into someone who does care for his own country more than ever.

Sure, Germany has had its witch-hunts. Real witch burnings in the Middle Ages. An old German friend of mine says – he hates the Church – that priests burned mostly redheads because they probably refused to sleep with them. Summary courts – the Femegerichte – were feared even after the Middle Ages. The trial and execution of Milady in The Three Musketeers is an example of how these kind of courts used to work. The Nazis persecuted nearly everyone. So did the Stasi in East Germany. Seeing only your own side as right, without objectivity, is a trap that can lead to this.

Law and Order

There is from old Prussia – which became the core of the German Reich in 1871, but was abolished by the Allies in 1947 – the legend of the Miller Arnold, and the real story behind it.

The legend goes that Frederick the Great was being disturbed by the clatter of the mill sails and offered to buy the mill from its miller, Johann William Grävenitz. When he refused, the king is supposed to have threatened: “Does he not know that I can take the mill away from him by virtue of my royal power without paying one groschen for it?” Whereupon the miller is supposed to have replied: “Of course, your majesty, your majesty could easily do that, if – begging your pardon – it were not for the Supreme Court in Berlin.”

The real story was that in 1768 there was a legal dispute at another location over water rights and the remaining lease between Christian Arnold, the tenant of a mill in Pommerzig in the Neumark, and his landlord, the Count of Schmettau. After the miller was found guilty on two accounts, he appealed to Frederick the Great, who intervened in the ongoing proceedings in favour of the miller. Wrongly, as it turned out later. The king referred the case to the Berlin Court of Appeal, who once again ruled against the miller. Frederick the Great, then demanded a condemnation of the judges and their imprisonment in Spandau Citadel for their unjust judgments and thus precipitated an abuse of his name. This legal battle and the story of the Sanssouci miller were woven together in the legend and were intended to emphasize the king’s justice towards all his subjects. After the death of Frederick the Great, the case was reopened.

The legend therefore was that even then, royal power was superseded by the objectivity of the law. The reality was that royal power then was not always objective (sachlich) with regards to the law. Now how this applies to President Benigno Aquino III and his objectivity may depend on the observer. Joe America will say one thing, GRP another. I tend to agree 2/3 with JoeAm on this matter, 1/3 with GRP, and fully with myself of course. I think he has been a bit partial in some cases (Purisima), objective on others (Corona) and wishy-washy in some like holding on to Secretary Abaya.

A distanced look at the evidence regarding Frederick the Great of Prussia points to his having very possibly been gay. Now that did not impact on his leadership, which was excellent in its results. Now I don’t care about Aquino’s sex life. Nor do I care about that of Senate President Franklin Drilon, or that of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Or that of former German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who is admittedly gay and even took his partner with him on trips. Aquino’s performance counts. Here I might agree 80% with JoeAm, 20% with GRP. My evaluation is still ongoing.

Mehr Sein als Schein

Lee Kuan Yew

Lee Kuan Yew

means be more than you seem to be, and is attributed to King Frederick. It is very Protestant and very Prussian. The more Catholic it gets and the more south you go in German-speaking countries, the more they place importance on appearances. The Austrians especially the Viennese can be downright charming, Austrian and Bavarian villages have beautiful Baroque churches. Now in contrast to that, Northern Germany is austere. Berlin soil is mainly sand, Prussia was poor. It had to conquer other lands like agricultural Silesia – partly because it could not feed itself.

Now contrast that with Marcos, whom Lee Kuan Yew looked down upon for lacking true substance: “In Bali in 1976.. I was to discover that for him, the communiqué was the accomplishment itself; its implementation was secondary”. Marcos’ projects were often “built on sand” and rushed, his heavy borrowing and printing money finally impoverished the country: “He [Marcos] sent his minister for trade and industry, Bobby Ongpin, to ask me for a loan of $300-500 million to meet the interest payments. I looked him straight in the eye and said, ‘We will never see that money back.’  The MRT3 seems to have been a typical Marcos-style project started in Ramos’ time – rushed and done too cheaply, and the price is being paid now. The Philippines lived beyond its means under Marcos, not just Marcos and Imelda. I have mentioned that living beyond one’s means never leads to true modernity. Just white elephants, like the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.

In a country that still can’t run a 17 kilometer elevated tram system properly, a nuclear power plant in an earthquake zone. Imagine Pinatubo in 1991 and Marcos still in power, BNPP running…

Predictability and Reliability

Recent Joe America articles criticize Peter Wallace. I criticize Peter Wallace too, for putting all the blame for the perceived unreliability of the Philippine government on President Aquino, while singing the praises of some other politicians. But what I do share with Peter Wallace is his criticism of the Philippines as having been (still being?) an unpredictable and unreliable partner.

Possibly Aquino is trying to fix things. Not always in the right way. Not always successfully I can see. But for example the debacle on NAIA3 really escalated during President Arroyo’s times. Secretary Abaya letting Vitangcol recommend a company that turned out to be owned by the latter’s uncle was definitely a blunder. In most countries, he would have to “fall on his sword” – resign. What I would not do is what some are doing and insinuating Abaya was in on the deal, or even Aquino. One cannot accuse people without a shred of proof, or even indications like with Binay.

Peter Wallace on his head (source: Joe America)

Where I agree with Peter Wallace is that foreign direct investment is lacking. The true reasons may be better outlined than by him in this article by the Swiss Neue Zürcher Zeitung, a paper read by many bankers for its extreme objectivity. It says that most Philippine stocks are political papers, vulnerable to who is in power and connections. It also states that foreign direct investments are hampered, according to ADB, by three reasons: insufficient infrastructure compared to other countries in the region, lack of trust in the government and a relatively narrow industrial base. Now I hardly think that it was better in the Marcos era. There are rumors that Marcos often raised the bribes for potential contractors. The NZZ does see the progress made by Aquino. Now I prefer an honest government with a learning curve in terms of competence to a corrupt government. The European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines has been publishing a weekly report on the Philippines since 2011. I still have to evaluate this source. European sources, especially Swiss ones except maybe FIFA’s Sepp Binay, ahem Blatter, are usually more objective than Filipino ones.

Legal certainty is a principle in national and international law which holds that the law must provide those subject to it with the ability to regulate their conduct. Legal certainty is internationally recognised as a central requirement for the rule of law. Now is legal certainty something that exists in the Philippines? Recent debates with regard to the Condonation Doctrine, as to be applied or not applied to the Binays, as well as whether Grace Poe is to be disqualified or not, make the Philippines look more like a country of legal uncertainty – sometimes it may even be a country where legal impunity is applied, meaning that those on the wrong side of power, less educated or poorer can lose a case. No need for impunity in the form of guns and goons if the law can be used. Now I do not subscribe to the point of view that Binays and Poe are victims of legal impunity. But it is easy for them to play that role in a country where the law was often a farce to conceal raw power. President Arroyo allegedly threatened Fraport boss Wilhelm Bender with arrest if he landed in Manila. Who does she think she is, and who he is?

Aquino is mainly seen as trustworthy, so other countries are giving him a chance I think. The Philippines is out on parole I would say, but not yet exonerated. The next years shall be crucial.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 21 January 2016

P.S. 23 January 2016 – thank you Secretary Abaya for clarifying this, just saw it, so it should be given credit.

According to MRT General Manager Roman Buenafe, the signaling system is currently under contract with the joint venture of German company Schunk Bahn-und Industrietechnik GmbH and Filipino firm Comm Builders & Technology Phils. Corp. (SBI-CB&T JV).

After Friday’s glitches, Buenafe did not rule out the possibility of a sabotage of the train system’s operations. There is an an ongoing investigation on the MRT glitches, but Abaya said sabotage is not the main focus of the probe and that they are looking at all the possibilities.

“Just like any other credible and responsible investigation you look at all angles. There is no primary focus on sabotage — let’s make it clear, it is not the primary focus of the investigation. The primary focus of the investigation is to find out the real causes, if sabotage is ruled out then that is well and good.”

The Transport secretary said they will continue to deal with the German maintenance provider despite allegations of a sabotage.

“We should pay what is due to them, we should pay for the services rendered, we should pay for the parts delivered. We deal with them fairly and I think we should continue to engage them.”

It was not really helpful that Mr. Buenafe insinuated sabotage without a shred of proof or even indications, just a suspicion. If the Philippines is to deal with German companies on a long-term basis this is not really the right way. Germany has very little natural resources and no military power, therefore like Japan its main asset is the high quality worksmanship and good reputation of its companies. If there were proof or indications like in the Volkswagen emissions case in the United States, it would be a totally different matter.  In this case Secretary Abaya was professional.

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Ano ang Pilipinas?

Satellite image of Philippines in March 2002

Siguro heto rin ang makikita ng bagong satellite ng Pilipinas – sa pangalang Diwata.

Alam na natin kung saan ang Pilipinas. Alam na natin kung ilang isla at populasyon, mahigit-kumonti. Pero ano ba talaga ang ibig sabihin ng Pilipinas? Depende yata ito sa nagsasalita. Para siguro sa iilang mga malalaking negosyante, sila na ang Pilipinas, kung ano ang ikabubuti nila ikabubuti din nga Pilipinas. Para naman sa iilang mga grupo sa pulitika at iilan sa kanilang mga supporter, sila na ang mas nakakaalam higit sa kahit sinong hindi kasali sa kanilang grupo kung ano ang ikabubuti ng Pilipinas, at iyong hindi kagrupo madalas nilang hindi na nirerespeto.

Kahit sino ang manalo sa darating na eleksiyon, malamang na hanggang 35% lang ng boto ang makukuha niya. Iyong iilang mga talo at supporter nila malamang na aangal at kakalabanin ang Presidenteng inihalal, kahit masira pa ang pag-unlad ng Pilipinas. Masasabi bang para sila sa Pilipinas? Ano ngang “Pilipinas” ang nasa isip nila? Mga mayayaman lang? Mga maykaya lang? Mga mahihirap lang? Mga kayumanggi lang? Mga may pinag-aralan lang? Ewan ko ba. Baka maraming magsasabi, kung maging tapat sila, na “kapakananan o kapangyarihan NAMIN” ang mahalaga.

Tignan natin ng mabuti kung ano talaga ang maaring nasa isip ng iilan – pasalamat tayo sa bawat hindi ganyan at nag-iisip para sa buong bansa:

  • Iilang mga Dutertista: di baleng maghirap ang mga squatter, basta kumikita ako. Bahala na si Digong pumatay sa mga puwedeng maging problema ko, may kasalanan man o hindi.
  • Iilang mga maka-Binay: di baleng maubos ang pera ng bayan, basta kuntento ako. Bahala na si Jojong gumawa ng paraan para malibre ako sa cake, sa wifi, sa medical care.
  • Iilang mga maka-Roxas: di baleng maghintay ang mga wala pang oportunidad, basta ako meron. Kahit hindi madanas ng mga walang gaanong pinag-aralan sa talambuhay nila ang pagbabago.
  • Iilang mga maka-Poe: di baleng hindi alam ni Grace kung paano niya aayusin ang Pilipinas, basta maaliw niya ako sa magandang pangarap na itinatanghal niya.
  • Iilang mga maka-Miriam: di baleng makaluma ang pamamalakad niya at hindi epektibo, basta maramdaman ko na siya ang pinuno at mahigpit magsalita.

Ano ngayon ang mararating ng Pilipinas sa bandang huli? Wala. Kulelat pa rin. Hindi aasenso. Tuluyang maiiwan ng mga ibang bansang mas may pagkakaisa at isip.

Ipagpalagay nang may kapalpakan si Presidente Aquino. Kaunti o marami depende sa paghusga. Pero kahit ganoon huwag din ipagkaila ang mga halimbawa ng nagawa na:

  • Gawa ng Pantawid Pamilya, maraming mahihirap na natutulungan. Hindi lang iyon, mas maganda ang mga nakakasanayan nila, at mga anak nila nakakapag-aral.
  • Gawa ng K-12, tumataas ang antas ng pag-iisip ng Pilipino. Natignan ko ito at mahusay. Hindi tulad ng dating sistema, madalas na walang silbi para sa tunay na buhay.
  • Gawa ng Go Negosyo Act at Negosyo Center, napapadaling magtayo ng negosyo ang ordinaryong tao. Hanapbuhay ang pinaguusapan dito, hindi pamumulubi o pagka-api.
  • Gawa ng Oplan Lambat Sibat at pag-aayos sa PNP, maaring maging mas tahimik at sigurado ang pamumuhay ng ordinaryong tao. Hindi ko alam kung may epekto na ngayon.
  • Gawa ng pagtaas ng ekonomiya, maraming nagkakaroon ng hanapbuhay. Sa turismo at iba pang negosyo. Ewan ko lang kung mas mabilis pa rin ang pagdami ng mga Pilipino.

Hindi ko sinasabing perpekto ang gobyerno. Baka kulang pa ang ginawa nila. Hindi ko rin tiyak na masasabi kung paano mapapaganda pa ang mga nasimulan at maiwasan ang mga kapalpakan.

Pero heto ang masasabi ko: hindi tulong ang gumiba sa nasimulan na, kahit kulang pa o hindi pa ganyang kaganda ang nasimulan. Parang nagtayo ka ng bahay, tapos sinunog mo para magtayo ng mas maganda. Dahil sa wakas, nasa iisang bansa ang mga Pilipino. Walang ibang titirahan kapag binagyo. Hindi puwedeng mag-migrante o mag-OFW lahat sa dami. Pilipinas ang siyang kawawa.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 19 January 2016

 

 

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Task Force MRT-3

Metrobus Istanbul 2010

Bus rapid transit in Istanbul

MRT3 is a long-standing issue. Things need to be fixed. But the problem has many dimensions:

  • The MRT-3 is in disrepair. It cannot operate at full capacity.
  • Its designed capacity is insufficient to absorb people using EDSA.
  • Taking it down for repair is not feasible – traffic would get even worse.

A quick solution must also think of the future. This is where I had this idea today which I am now outlining.

Solution Proposal Summary

The solution that I consider the most sensible for the MRT-3 conundrum and EDSA traffic would have three phases:

  1. Build a BRT system similar to that in Istanbul.
  2. Shut down the MRT3 for overhaul.
  3. Operate both after the overhaul.

This sounds crazy but it is in my opinion feasible and helpful. Why do I think it is:

  1. BRT systems can be up and running very quickly.
  2. The MRT needs a total overhaul to run properly again.
  3. Both systems together would absorb a lot of people using EDSA.

One would need some experts to help a local core team run from DOTC and controlled there:

  • Experienced BRT people from cities that have it. Istanbul, Bogota, Curitiba or Brisbane, it doesn’t matter. To build and enable a local Filipino team.
  • Experienced subway/tram people from cities that have it. Munich, Prague, I don’t care. To build and enable a local Filipino operation/maintenance team.

IMHO the local teams should all be from DOTC. Build own capabilities to be competent in supervising subcontractors. Make sure real lessons are learned from past glitches.

Building the BRT

Bf Bln Sw, 126 552

1924 train coach from Germany

The BRT could be built up quickly using the following steps:

  • Built bus rapid transit lanes by fencing off one EDSA lane on each side. Simple barriers are I think enough.
  • Build provisional stops where the MRT-3 stops and stairs are at present. This should not be too hard either.
  • Have bus operators drive on the left-hand side in the BRT lanes. So that boarding is alway on the right of the bus.

The following could be the way to deal with the BRT system set-up:

  • BRT experts have a look at the roads to see whether there are any problems with setting up barriers and building stations.
  • Where barriers or stations cannot be built that easily, have the buses cross to the normal road and use it for a while.
  • Get the work on the barriers and stations done and make sure the bus contractors are all on board and use them on Day X.

The BRT would replace the buses chaotically blocking EDSA on the sides. So no loss by getting it running quickly.

Buses in the BRT system would go on as normal buses to wherever the bulk of people live. I think this can be found out.

Divide the concessions based on different lines – Makati-Fairview, Makati-Pasig, whatever. Let old normal concessions expire.

Overhauling the MRT-3

As for overhauling the MRT-3, look at what needs to be done in the following areas and make sure the current state of the system is meticulously documented to avoid conflict:

  • Overhead lines and rail tracks
  • Stations and access to them
  • Coaches and engines

Find local contractors for each area. Agree on technology transfer within what is possible if foreign partners are involved. Contracts should have strict delivery and quality clauses.

BRT and MRT

MRT-3 Manila train towards Ayala Station

MRT-3 near Ayala

As soon as the BRT and MRT are working in parallel, do the following:

  1. make the MRT fare more expensive than that of the BRT – to get back the cost of overhauling the system.
  2. Built new lines using the team that overhauled the MRT-3 and their subcontractors to use their capabilities.
  3. The same team should become fully local after a while, and take care of maintenance and operation of all lines.

This is to avoid the same problems from occuring once again after a few years.

Is this crazy?

Yes it is. But it is much crazier to let the system continue to rot. It is both a quick fix and a long-term solution.

Having two systems also means having a fallback option. Ideas to enhance this proposal are very welcome.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 12. January 2016

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