OpinionBuild. Build! Build?
Build. Build! Build?
August 29, 2018
August 29, 2018

Infrastructure is the foundation of a strong economy. Retail, office, and manufacturing spaces bring people in the city.  Residential zones keep people in the city. Recreational areas retwain people in the city. Infrastructure connects and integrates all these areas together. Sprawling metropolises of the west have demonstrated the importance of well-built infrastructure. The lack of proper infrastructure has hindered the Philippine economy. Hastily execution, bad design, or improper management played a big role in the letdown of Philippine infrastructure.

For the past decade, there has been a race to make up for the lack of infrastructure. Roads were built left and right. Road widenings swept across the country and devastated adjacent structures. This not only affected homeowners but also nature and wildlife. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources disputed plans of removing curbside trees. Plans of relocation were proposed, however, this is a logistical nightmare. Utility poles were also in the way. What we ended up with today are outside lanes with protruding trees, stumps, or posts that render the lane useless.

Not all infrastructure is good infrastructure.  Once we filled up all the space with roads, there was no other way but to go up. The Skyway was built in 1999 and it proved to be effective in decongesting the South Luzon Expressway. Today, the idea of placing spacious elevated roadways over old and narrow streets has elated Filipinos. Instead of optimizing at-grade streets, Filipinos opted to cover up bad infrastructure and urban design. San Miguel Corporation continued this idea and setup the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway Expressway (NAIAx). NAIAXxis an expressway connecting the three terminals of the airport, Entertainment City, and the Skyway. It seemed to be a great solution to the fragmented airport, however, it may have caused more congestion and bottlenecking. Bizarre tollway configurations took up valuable space that diverted traffic to inefficient lanes. All the while costing more per kilometer than the original Skyway.

All these projects require a lot of money. Road widenings require compensation for affected parties. Elevated roadways require a lot of research and planning. Materials and manpower for these kinds of projects require investments. The Philippine government has always bid out these projects. Technical specifications and maximum budget for the project are given out. Plans passed by companies are reviewed by the government. The company that can execute the project at the lowest price gets the contract. This creates a loophole for mismanagement and quality control. Oftentimes contractors cheat the system by contractualization of workers, subcontractors, and inadequate materials.

Build, Build, Build plans to mend these infrastructure problems. Duterte plans to make the Philippines great again. More than a dozen plans were made and started during his term. These included projects in Cebu, Pangasinan, Bacolod, and other cities. Reports state that these projects are financed with the help of China. There is no harm in getting help from other countries. Countries like Japan and the United States have volunteered in the past to finance other projects. However, China is known for its higher interest rates and debt traps. When debtors fail to pay, investments are repossessed by the Chinese.

Duterte has orchestrated a construction boom in the Philippines. Thousands of construction workers and civil engineers are given jobs. If the economy grows, demand for construction will follow. If not, a vacuum in the construction industry can leave thousands jobless.

Perhaps Duterte has other plans. Duterte has always campaigned that his actions are for the Filipinos. It seems that Duterte plans to mark his term as the golden age of infrastructure. That it was in his term that progress in infrastructure was made. Expensive infrastructure that China financed. False progress in exchange for future misery. This leaves the succeeding generations to pay for his decisions.

Sounds familiar?