Last Two Minutes (The Philippine Star)

Given the nature of our politics, I doubt P-Noy will even have the benefit of a full year to establish his legacy. He still has a long “to do” list particularly in the areas of governance and infrastructure delivery. He will have to be more decisive in rooting out members of his team who have failed to deliver or have betrayed the public trust.

P-Noy has entered the equivalent of the last two minutes for his administration. Study mode was long over… but tell that to P-Noy’s boys at DOTC. I still think they will be unable to deliver a single rail project... the easiest project to deliver, the short four kilometer Masinag LRT 2 extension hasn’t even broken ground yet.

They promised to deliver the first phase of the NAIA 1 rehab this year but I am sure it will be nowhere near the first phase of the LAX Tom Bradley Terminal rehab which wowed me as I took my PAL flight home this weekend.

Two years ago, the LAX Tom Bradley International was a mess, maybe a little bit better than NAIA. I just saw what two years can deliver by way of a world class airport rehab. If then DOTC Sec Mar Roxas didn’t dilly dally in 2010, we would have had a two year headstart.

They are still working on the succeeding phases of the rehab while the airport continues to be in full operation. I posted photos of how the new LAX looks in my Facebook page. I am impressed.

Maybe General Honrado should get a free PAL ticket to see how they are working on the LAX Tom Bradley International rehab. He too will be wowed and hopefully shamed… even the rest rooms look great. If Honrado says LAX didn’t have the government constraints he has, he should recommend privatizing NAIA.

Anyway, since it is the first working day of the New Year so maybe we ought to start with some good news and the good news is, reforms are possible. According to Bill Luz, the tireless fighter for good governance and accountability, we have not done too badly in recent years. Representing the private sector in the National Competitiveness Council, Bill’s year end report showed progress made in recent years.

Bill pointed out that from 2011 to 2014, we have made breakthroughs in seven of twelve global competitive reports which we track. Among the seven, the Philippines has posted some of the biggest improvements globally over three years in the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report (+33) and Global Enabling Trade Report (+28), World Bank-International Finance Corporation Doing Business Report (+53), Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (+49), and the Heritage Foundation Economic Freedom Index (+26).Anyway, since it is the first working day of the New Year so maybe we ought to start with some good news and the good news is, reforms are possible. According to Bill Luz, the tireless fighter for good governance and accountability, we have not done too badly in recent years. Representing the private sector in the National Competitiveness Council, Bill’s year end report showed progress made in recent years.

Bill says however that the declines point to the need for improvements in areas like infrastructure, education, research and development, and disaster response. I think we also ought to point out that even when we seem to have made good progress, we started from near the bottom. We shouldn’t be satisfied with what we have been able to accomplish so far but instead aim to be included among the pace setting countries.

For instance, while we made progress in fighting corruption, we all know from experience that the situation in that area is still quite bad. Just the other day, I was talking with a group of Christians who built a Church in Manila and they were being asked to fork over the usual bribes by City Hall denizens to get their occupancy permit. The day when our government officials will try to scam God’s workers is the day we must have truly lost our right to call ourselves a Christian country.

As Bill admits, “though the country has shown vast improvement in aggregate indicators like Control of Corruption and Political Stability and Absence of Violence, we started from such a low base that we must accelerate reform programs. On the other hand, we have begun to show signs of stagnation on indicators measuring Government Effectiveness, illustrating that we need to renew efforts to deliver public services better.”

Interestingly, Bill reports progress in initiating reforms on the local government level. Last year, they worked on measuring regional competitiveness with 535 LGUs participating. The index that came out of the effort is now giving businessmen and citizens an objective and quantitative measure of performance. Next year, . Bill promised, “we will push the envelope and add even more LGUs, bringing our total coverage to over 1,000. All of the findings are posted on our website (Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.*.”

I find it interesting that they have also launched the Liveable Cities Design Challenge, an urban planning and design  competition to encourage cities to plan and design for resilience and liveability.  Mentored by architects and urban planners, 15 participating cities delivered designs for a government/evacuation center and an APEC meeting venue. “This is the first step towards mainstreaming principles of liveable, resilient, sustainable, and competitive growth.”

What’s in store for the new year and beyond? Bill said they have begun to lay the groundwork on certain projects that will institutionalize good governance practices.

“First, in line with our hosting of APEC this 2015, we have launched the Islands of Good Governance campaign with the Institute of Solidarity in Asia. What started out as a balanced scorecard system for six agencies has grown to more than 20 national government agencies and local government units subjecting themselves to external audits. We aim to showcase these audited breakthrough results in 2015 as proof of our commitment to good governance.

“Second, while we continue to hold our officials accountable for performance, we have realized that certain policies at the national, departmental, and local levels have made it difficult to reduce the cost of compliance and enforcement and consequently hinder efficient public service delivery. We are currently studying  an idea called ‘Project Repeal’ to identify outdated laws that are long due for repeal and  plan to organize a team to facilitate its implementation in partnership with Congress.”

I admire the tenacity of Bill and his co-workers and volunteers in the National Competitiveness Council. It will do well for P-Noy to give them more support with the aim of fast tracking all needed reforms before June 2016. That’s the only way of institutionalizing the gains of the past few years and making sure whoever is elected to succeed him will be measured by a higher standard of governance.

Most importantly, Bill and the NCC showed reforms can be done. Reforms can happen. But it needs determination to see the difficult tasks done.

There are other things that P-Noy should make sure he delivers during the last two minutes of his watch so he can leave behind a lasting legacy. First in this list is the Freedom of Information bill still languishing in Congress. Worse, they are emasculating the entire concept of freedom of information to the point of even putting handicaps on freedom of the press.

Second is the proposal of Speaker Sonny Belmonte on how to amend the Constitutional restrictions on investments and the economy. I realize P-Noy is not convinced anything ought to be done at all. But he must realize too that his failure to create the needed jobs in the country arises from too little investments coming in compared to our ASEAN peers.

Third is the need to make decisions on what to do with MRT 3. There is no doubt it needs serious rehabilitation for the safety of commuters but I am sure people are unimpressed with Sec Jun Abaya’s statements on how government will undertake this job or when.

Abaya still has to sit down with the private owners of MRT 3 before anything can happen or legal problems will cause further delays. Maybe, P-Noy himself should sit down with the MRTH officials and hear their proposal to undertake the rehab at no cost to the government. It is too good a deal to reject out of hand.

It is the same thing with San Miguel’s proposal to build an international airport in the reclamation area. Sec Abaya hired JICA consultants to do a study to put that new airport in Sangley, his home base. In any case, a decision will have to be made this year one way or another and that’s something DOTC is not likely to do without P-Noy getting involved.

During his mother’s last two minutes, Ping de Jesus was tasked to build several flyovers just so it could be said Tita Cory delivered something concrete that people can use. Saving democracy is fine but after the fine speeches, people want infrastructure that would make going to work and doing business pleasant.

P-Noy cannot overlook the infrastructure gap during his watch. He no longer has the time to allow his boys to dilly dally as if there is notomorrow. He is now at his last two minutes.


By: Boo Chanco

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