Jojo A. Robles

Most promising

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A friend has suggested that Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla (the new “best friend forever” of the power companies) should sue Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson for copyright infringement. Singson has declared that he would submit a resignation letter to President Noynoy Aquino if it’s proven that the bunkhouses that his department built for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda are overpriced.

 

Assuming that any overpricing is conclusively proven, Singson still has the legendary trust and confidence of Aquino to fall back on, so that he gets to remain in his post. Except that the gimmick has already been used by Petilla, when he announced that he was also quitting (which Aquino wouldn’t allow, naturally) because he had failed to restore power in Leyte and Samar.

Meanwhile, reports of overpricing have gotten the attention of “rehab czar” Panfilo Lacson, who, as an ex-cop may have finally found something that he can sink his teeth into – hey, an investigation! – in his new job. Let’s hope Lacson also gets around soon to burying the 1,400 rotting corpses in Tacloban City, as well, even if he was never an undertaker.

 

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President Noynoy Aquino’s declaration that his administration has entered its “last two minutes” seems to have a strange effect on his transportation secretary, Joseph Emilio Abaya. Abaya, the “most promising” member of Aquino’s Cabinet, seems to have taken the presidential announcement as a cue to unveil even more spectacular projects that he will never get around to completing, even if he stays 100 years in his position.

The latest daydream to come out of Abaya’s fevered imagination is a 900-kilometer Integrated Luzon Railway connecting Cagayan in the north and the Bicol Region in the south. This, from the head of a department that couldn’t even manufacture license plates for newly-purchased cars or even print enough sticker tags for older vehicles – a colossal failure that no government in the past was able to come even close to achieving.

Abaya said feasibility studies for his Luzon-wide rail system and a 90-km “airport commuter railway” may be completed early this year. “If we get [the National Economic and Development Authority’s] clearance on both the integrated Luzon railway and the commuter railway, we can bid that out early this year,” Abaya said.

But Abaya showed that he is still somehow in touch with reality when he admitted that both rail projects could take five to six years to complete. “Hopefully the people who would replace us will find this a viable project,” Abaya admitted.

The last “viable project” that I heard Abaya expound on was a subway system for Metro Manila. And after that, I never heard anything about this grandiose (and incredibly stupid) plan from Abaya ever again.

Meanwhile, Abaya and his department still had not bid out the proposed Mactan-Cebu international airport terminal, supposedly one of the most important projects in the menu of the flagship public-private partnerships scheme of this administration. DOTC has not even purchased a single coach for any of the three existing and unbelievably crowded light rail transit systems in Metro Manila or approved a unified ticketing scheme for them.

No one is debating the need for the transportation infrastructure that Abaya keeps promising. After all, a study conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency said the government needs at least 200 kilometers of railroad and over 100,000 kilometers of roads just to ease traffic congestion in Metro Manila alone.

But the combined efforts of Abaya, the Department of Public Works and Highways and the PPP Center (the government agency which is always looking for ways – and failing – to pass on the responsibility of building public infrastructure to the private sector), have resulted in no significant projects getting done in the past three and a half years of Aquino. Even the only PPP project that got off the drawing board during this administration – the piddling three-kilometer Daanghari extension – is still years away from being finished.

If a vote is ever held to elect the Aquino administration official who best personifies the growing belief that this government is all promises and no action, I would not hesitate for one second: Abaya is the perfect poster boy of the daang matuwid that never got built.

As this administration shambles toward its final days, the propaganda is still as strident. But it keeps losing its already tenuous connection to reality because of people like Abaya, who love to talk a good game but who are never called out when they fail to deliver on their press releases.

Now that we’re in the last two minutes, my prediction that Aquino himself will not be able to point to anything significant that he’s done when he steps down from office sounds more and more like a fait accompli. And it’s people like Abaya who are to blame, not just their boss – a President who has perfected the art of doing nothing and yet who keeps getting sick from overworking.

 

This is why firing Abaya will not solve anything, even he does nothing except talk of the fantastic things he will get done. Abaya is just implementing Aquino’s most important policy, like a good Cabinet secretary.

The Filipino Express

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