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By Gary Covington

Looking In

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

IN JULY of 1862 the then President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, signed into law an 'Act to Aid in the Construction of a Railroad and Telegraph Line from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean' bringing into being the Union Pacific Railroad Company.

January last we learnt that a pair of congressional representatives is seeking the creation of a 'Mindanao Railway Corporation'.

For railroad stuff - workshops, sidings, stations - Lincoln's 1862 act assigned to the railroad and thus the company a right of way 300 feet wide plus an additional 12, 000 acres of land for every mile; an eventual enormous 33 million acres, much of it appropriated ('Extinguished' says the act) from resident native Americans.


Under the proposed Mindanao bill the railway corporation will have the power to 'operate or own power houses, hotels, restaurants, terminals, warehouses, timber concessions, coal mines, iron and other mineral properties and manufacture rolling stock, equipment, tools and other appliances and construct and operate in connection with its railroad lines toll viaducts, toll tunnels and the like'.

Financial aid from the US Government for the Union Pacific Railroad Company was a generous $16,000 per mile for flat land increasing to $48, 000 per mile in mountainous terrain (1860's cash remember). The Mindanao Railway Corporation would have a start-up kitty of P1 billion and then P200 million annually and - oh, by the by - 'be exempted from payment of all taxes of every name and nature, municipal, city, provincial or national'.

The 1860's Union Pacific Railroad made a few people extraordinarily rich - lobbying federal and state politicians rewarded with stock, land or cash and the company directors - literally a handful - who awarded themselves the construction contracts and then, without lifting a shovel, subcontracted the labor out to someone else not forgetting, naturally, to skim off a little more. If I was a cynic, heaven forbid, and knowing that the more traditional get-rich-quick opportunities were currently under public scrutiny -fake Special Allotment Release Orders (SAROs), Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs), Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAFs) - I'd venture that a trans-Mindanao railroad represents a golden opportunity for fiscal fiddling and monetary mischief. Watch this one people.

Change of topic, totally unrelated, here's something I've been meaning to ask for ages - why are Davao's professionals so unprofessional when it comes to the clock?

Example; I'm in need of reading glasses so a local mall optician recommended I make an appointment to see a specialist at one of the city's leading hospitals. On the day and at the time appointed I turned up to find a waiting room full of patients and a consultancy working on the 'first come, first served' principle and, even though the surgery doors opened at 8 a.m., halfway through the morning the doctor still hadn't arrived.

We waited. And waited some more. More patients came in. It was standing room only when the doctor made an appearance. I can only assume there's a secret button beneath the receptionist's desk which she presses when the waiting room has reached a capacity guaranteed to turn a decent profit - it's then OK for the 'professional' to turn up for work.

This isn't just me - others tell of MDs late or not turning up at all, of absent lawyers and missing dentists. Where does this lackadaisical attitude towards appointed time come from? Absorbed from public servants or vice-versa?

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 06, 2014.


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