"It's more fun indeed in the Philippines."
Recent developments make one conclude that the Philippines remains very Third World despite leapfrogging advances in technology in the rest of the world and an economic growth that is one of the most vigorous on earth.
Last year, we had the worst rice crisis and the highest inflation rate in 11 years.
This year, we have had the worst water crisis in the East Zone of Metro Manila which could last until this June, rolling power blackouts, big banks suddenly going off-line for days, and on late Monday afternoon, just as Filipinos were getting back to normal daily grind after a long Easter break, a powerful, destructive and deadly earthquake strikes like a monstrous bird fanning its wings accompanied by a howling sound, leaving in its wake a trail of devastation and misery over a 100-km radius.
At first, our own Phivolcs underestimated Monday afternoon’s tremblor, putting its magnitude at 5.7, and overstated its depth, 21 kms. But the US Geological Service pegged magnitude promptly at 6.1, its depth at 10 kms, and its location at 1 km from Floridablanca, Pampanga.
Thankfully, within an hour, Philvolcs updated its numbers—to 6.1 magnitude, depth at 12 kms. but insisted on Castillejos, Zambales as the epicenter.
Maybe, our Phivolcs uses a more advanced Richter scale. According to Wikipedia, magnitude 5.5 to 6.0 causes slight damage to buildings and other structures; magnitude 6.1 to 6.9 causes a lot of damage in very populated areas. What a difference a decimal point makes.
As if that was not enough, an even more powerful earthquake struck Tuesday, in Eastern Samar, magnitude 6.4, at 1:37 p.m., 70 kms from Tacloban City, according to USGS. Phivolcs recorded the quake also at 1:37 p.m., but at magnitude 6.5, and located it at 009km N 66 degrees W of San Julian, Eastern Samar, with depth of 65 kms.
Monday’s earthquake totally paralyzed our much-touted Clark International Airport. Videos and pictures of the airport’s inner building showed a wall leaning forward, a whole ceiling at the check-in hall has collapsed, glass walls smashed, wires dripping from everywhere, and steel bars and aluminum frames in tangled puzzle . Power became unreliable. The runways and taxiways were intact but the airport management was not prepared to handle manually takeoffs and landings. So scores of flights were cancelled for three days.
The original Clark terminal whose ceiling dropped is relatively brand new. Costing P130 million, the commercial terminal was first opened in 2008. It was expanded in 2010 at a cost of P550 million to build a second story, and expanded further in 2013 at a cost of P417 million with the addition of 21 new check-in counters. So we have a P1-billion Clark terminal completely paralyzed for three days. Some 100 flights were canceled yesterday and today.
Clark has ambitions to supplant if not replace totally the NAIA as the main gateway airport of the Philippines.
Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez estimates Clark’s assets at $14 billion, one reason why he has put San Miguel’s $15-billion four-runway Bulacan international airport project through the wringer. Last August 2018, the NAIA airport was closed for three days when a Xiamen Airline aircraft crash-landed.
The Philippines’ only two gateway airports can easily be paralyzed for several days with the slightest accident and acts of nature—NAIA by a Chinese pilot missing his target and NAIA people not knowing where to get a forklift to tow his jet away; Clark by “not a major” earthquake that shakes a poorly constructed ramshackle terminal.
Moral of the story: Let’s have as many airports as possible in Luzon as long as proponents spend their own money. Generally, private airports are better built and better equipped.
At this writing, 16 have died, with more than 20 are missing, in Pampanga when the four-storey Chuzon supermarket was flattened in Porac, Pampanga Monday. Heart-rending is the sight of bodies of whole families being retrieved from the debris.
Meanwhile, for a number of days this April, two of the largest banks in the Philippines went offline for some unknown reason. Branches of said banks could not accept or credit payments and deposits.
A cash payment of P160,000 was made at our favorite BPI branch in Greenhills on April 11 for our credit card. When we checked yesterday (April 23), the cash was not at all credited and apparently missing. Yet, BPI computers were good enough to slap a fine or fee for non-payment on time.
For its part, BDO also went offline on April 19-20, and millions of bank clients could not do any transaction. The credit card of my friend was hacked or copied, with the culprit making purchases in Japan and Singapore while its owner was in Manila. BDO asked my friend to write a letter of complaint before the unauthorized expenditures are reversed.
BDO and BPI are investing heavily (P7 billion in the case of BPI) in so-called digitalization to go wireless, cashless and without human contact for transactions.
Humans and computers make mistakes. As does Mother Nature. Nature and computers though have no emotions and are incapable of greed and incompetence. The confluence of their actions makes us very Third World amid a searing summer heat. No water, no electricity, no banking. It’s more fun indeed in the Philippines.