July 21, 2021 at 12:00 am
"The economy’s winning streak across three presidencies has been undercut by the health crisis."
During the site inspection, prior to actual operation of the beautifully-designed New Clark International Airport last Saturday, BCDA President and CEO, Secretary Vince Dizon, concurrently Presidential Adviser on Flagship Projects which carries cabinet rank, likewise co-implementer with Sec. Carlito Galvez of our vaccination drive narrated a very touching story.
He was with candidates Rodrigo Duterte and Alan Peter Cayetano in the long, long motorcade from the Navotas Fishport helicopter landing through the narrow streets of Malabon and Navotas. That motorcade took all of eight hours, from around three in the afternoon to about eleven that night where a rally was to be held. Hundreds of thousands of people lined up the streets, blocking the motorcade for a chance to get a photo of the then “rockstar” of the 2016 elections, now president of the land.
Vince went with the candidates atop a flatbed truck provided by my good friend Norman Fulgencio, our Camanava point man during the campaign, who coordinated the huge and successful event, probably the longest motorcade over such a short distance that the Duterte-Cayetano ticket had during the entire campaign. This happened in otherwise “un-friendly” territory, under Mayor Len-len Oreta, first cousin of President Benigno S. Aquino III. And Mayor John-ray Tiangco, whose older brother was spokesman of then candidate Jojo Binay. To their credit, both mayors posed no obstacles to the traffic-stopping motorcade, and in fact cooperated with Norman, who is now our postmaster-general.
Sec. Dizon recalled that at one point in the motorcade, then candidate Duterte told him: “Look Vince at the enthusiasm of the crowd. That is because they are angry at how successive leaderships have failed to make their lives better. I hope that if we win, we can make their lives a bit more comfortable”.
Dizon narrated that incident to point out how the Build, Build, Build program of President Duterte has started to bear fruit, employing many and making life more comfortable, more convenient for the ordinary man, and said it would have done better had not the pandemic rudely interrupted its progress.
Indeed, the new international airport, aside from its beautiful yet functional architecture, is a wonder to behold. It is a testament to the partnership between government and the private sector. Construction was undertaken by Megawide Development in record time, a bit delayed by the lockdowns imposed during the pandemic’s height. Kevin Tan, the new CEO of Megawide, was justifiably proud, as was Rene Simbulan, one of the major sub-contractors.
Management of the Clark facility was won by a consortium of two Cebuano taipans --- the Gokongwei and Gotianun business empires, who in turn entered a service contract with Changi Airport of Singapore, arguably the best-run airport in the world.
Aside from the indefatigable Dizon, whose body weight has begun to shrink with the multifarious tasks he handles for government and its corresponding stress, we have to thank Secretaries Art Tugade and Mark Villar for the accomplishment.
“A more comfortable life” is an oft-repeated phrase that encapsulates Rodrigo Duterte’s pledge and goal in his presidency which is now about to end.
Had the coronavirus not rudely interrupted the cadence of his presidency, that goal may have been reached: Not too comfortable but still more comfortable.
The streets are somehow safer, and even with the ravages on livelihood of the pandemic’s lockdowns, the police and local governments have managed safety and security well. Illegal substances are still available, but the menace has abated greatly. Manufacturing of shabu has vanished, although smuggling of the deathly substance mostly from neighboring China continues.
The economy’s winning streak across three presidencies has been undercut by the health crisis and its accompanying community quarantines of varying severities. As a result, more people are out of jobs, and the grey economy of self-employed marginal entrepreneurs has almost dried up, livelihoods shattered. Many small and medium-scale businesses are teetering on bankruptcy, if they had not already shut down, still worrying about indebtedness that must be paid.
Ironically, the elections barely nine months from now will be the test of whether the president’s oft-repeated pledge of “a more comfortable life” has made a positive mark, an improvement on people’s lives.
It will be an issue of whether continuity, and continuity in what aspects of life, will be the desideratum, or whether change, as defined by the existing social and economic environment, will be the mood of the electorate.