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By May Anne Cacdac

The Iron Maiden

Thursday, August 7, 2014

ILLINOIS, USA -- "Strained infrastructure in Philippines erodes the nation’s growth prospects," said an article written by Floyd Whaley for the New York Times on August 3.

"Chris Ibasan travels only about five miles to work each day in one of Manila's business districts, but it is often a grueling two-hour commute that gets him into the office late.

My manager understands,’ said Mr. Ibasan, a 24 year-old shipping company employee. Everyone is late; even the managers are late for work.


From Mr. Ibasan’s perspective, the problem is simple.

There are too many people going to work, too many vehicles and not enough roads, he said. And taking the train is like lining up to see a movie star. You wait for hours.

But from an economist’s perspective, the problem is even larger. The 2.2 million vehicles a day that grind away on Manila’s crumbling road system that cost the country 876 billion pesos a year, or more than $20 billion, in lost productivity and wasted energy, according to a recent study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency. That is a serious drain on an economy of about $250 billion,” the article said.

It went on to add: “But the infrastructure problems now threaten to hold the Philippines back from reaching the next level, economically speaking, and improving its manufacturing base. Infrastructure problems have surpassed corruption as the leading economic obstacle, according to the most recent World Economic Forum competitiveness report, which is based on responses from people doing business in the country. Manila is plagued by power failures, chronic water shortages, an antiquated telecommunications system, deteriorating roads and bridges and a subpar airport.”

While horrendous traffic congestion is not always experienced in Baguio, the other realities in Metro Manila are fast catching up with us.

Power failures (although I must say, Beneco keeps this in check and works double time to restore power whenever we have unscheduled interruptions).

Chronic water shortages. Antiquated telecommunications system. Deteriorating roads and bridges. And a subpar airport.

Deteriorating roads get to me.

We don’t even have an airport. What we have are roads. Unreliable, to say the least. And for a landlocked region, this poses the greatest hindrance to our development.

I arrived in Chicago to a slew of road works beginning outside the airport all the way to the burbs.

“It’s like that here during the summer. They fix the roads destroyed during the winter,” my ate Cherry told me. Along the road works are the proper digitized signages directing traffic and informing the public of any detours, speed limits and even the week when the project will be completed.

Sure we have road repairs back home. We have them though during the rainy season. Almost like a cruel joke on Pinoys who have to doubly suffer from traffic and floods brought about by the monsoon.

We constantly slam the Department of Public Works and Highways for this wrong timing and get a response to the lines, “It is during this season that funds for these projects become available.”

Bull. That is totally insulting the Pinoy’s intelligence. We deserve a far better answer than that. No, what we deserve are roads at par to the taxes we pay and the hard work that we put into it.

That our infrastructure problems have surpassed corruption as our leading economic obstacle is alarming and says a lot about how deep we are into this ****. Case in point, Janet Napoles.

Halsema Highway is the classic example in our part of the country on how poor infrastructure development has hindered the economic growth of the Cordilleras. That we have multinational companies operating in these areas have not made a difference on how government and even the private sector invest on our roads.

Sometimes one cannot help but think that the neglected road rehabilitation projects are almost a scheme to sustain a monopoly on who operates in the highlands.

Adding salt to injury is how the President snubbed the Cordilleras once again during his Sona. By the way, I salute those who remained optimistic PNoy will even give his time of day to mention our region’s stab at autonomy during the Sona. But suffice to say dreams of the region’s economic boom are quite far-fetched right now.

And then there’s AFTA. How can we be competitive with the kind of roads that we have and the kind of attention (or severe lack thereof) this problem receives from government?

Here’s to hopes of better road networks in our region. And not a road to perdition.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on August 08, 2014.


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