"Brain and brawn, both"
In the recent phreatic eruption of Taal Volcano which disrupted the lives of thousands upon thousands of lakeshore towns and beyond, the readiness and reaction of two local governments were nothing short of outstanding.
Instead of just appealing for national government help, both Batangas and Cavite LGUs moved quickly. Batangas understandably had to act because the affected towns — Talisay, Laurel, Agoncillo, Taal, Lemery, San Luis, San Nicolas and even Balete, Alitagtag and Cuenca are under its jurisdiction. And Governor Dodo Mandanas was quick to act, using provincial resources even as the national government was still mobilizing.
Cavite whose residents were hardly endangered but for the ashfall, also went to the rescue of their neighbors in Batangas’ lakeshore towns. Governor Johnvic Remulla quickly mobilized the 28 towns and cities of his province, identified the proper evacuation centers, provided the needed food, water and amenities that the evacuees would immediately use, with many residents volunteering their abodes for homestay.
Thousands of Batanguenos went up to Tagaytay, and from there, they were bused by the Cavite government to the prepared evacuation centers, and if they had kin or friends, these were immediately contacted for possible homestay. Everything was done with neither fuss nor fanfare, and the national government was not at all bothered by the province.
The DILG and the police under it moved in to the lakeshore towns to keep the peace and direct orderly evacuation, as well as supervise and enforce the lockdown while the alert levels had not yet been withdrawn by Phivolcs.
If LGUs and their elected officials were only as alert and efficient as those of these Tagalog provinces, federalism would work. Unfortunately, Cavite and Batangas are perhaps more exception than rule, which is why many doubt if a shift to federalism from the present system would work well. But then again, one has to input the fact that these Tagalog provinces have ample resources to spare.
Returning to Taipei after the Lunar New Year holidays, I was told that there is a looming shortage of hand sanitizers and even rubbing alcohol. The MECO administrative director had to scour so many drugstores and even convenience outlets to be able to buy these disinfectants which we needed urgently when we re-opened our offices after the holidays last Thursday, January 30.
Truth is, we had to buy several boxes of rubbing alcohol to send to our Taiwan offices to disinfect the hands of every visitor to MECO, whether Taiwanese or Filipinos. Taiwan officials have also restricted the amount of face masks a retail buyer could purchase, and forbidden any export of the highly-needed commodity.
Even a Taiwanese company which manufactures medical disposables such as face masks in Bataan had to work overtime just to supply rush orders from neighboring countries including, better believe it, mainland China.
A major concern was expressed to me by both Manila and Taiwanese businessmen who are participating or intend to participate in the infrastructure projects of the Philippines, whether under the Build,Build,Build government program, or big-ticket private-sector financed PPP projects.
They complain about the lack of skilled manpower readily available in our country. Apparently, through the years, our engineers and even skilled workers like electricians, plumbers, and welders, as well as craftsmen and finishing carpentry workers have been going abroad as OFWs.
With the increased demand in the Philippines occasioned by the infrastructure push, skilled labor supply has been tremendously outstripped.
The yet available labor supply in the region can be sourced only in China and even India, but these are quite expensive, and restrictions in our country understandably proscribe massive utilization of foreign workers.
Note the howl of resentment about POGOs’ Mandarin-speaking foreign hires who entered the country mostly from China. Recall how years back, Fontana Resort Hotel in Clark was closed down after having run afoul of labor laws because they hired construction workers from China.
In our desire to shore up our dollar remittances from OFW earnings, and the wage disparities as well as work demand in foreign shores vis-à-vis local conditions, we now face the dire prospects of a skilled labor shortage.
It is both a brain and brawn drain that we now experience.
Thinks of nurses and doctors, even teachers, who are increasingly enticed to work abroad due to better salaries, creating a brain drain that affects our health and educational needs.
Think now of a brawn drain, where even blue collar workers are in short supply.
The success of the Build, Build, Build program is endangered. Speedy construction of urgently needed big-ticket projects such as the Bulacan and Sangley international airports will likewise be affected, unless government makes a realistic assessment of the situation and acts accordingly.
The Filipino consumer is an oppressed creature, paying for services that he hardly gets month after month after month. One such oppressive service provider is Sky Cable.
In my case, the few times that I stay in Manila being in a foreign post, I get denied of my cable TV service even if mercifully, it is my link to the internet. There is hardly any television channel that I could access other than CNN International, even if my service provider is Sky Cable, which supposedly has a monopoly on the Lopez-controlled ABS-CBN, ANC or DZMM Teleradyo.
I am luckier in Taipei, where I source my local TV fare from TFC, but in Manila? I cannot get neither the Lopez-owned stations, nor their competition. The few times that ANC beams on the monitor, it is terribly pixelized, one gets a headache watching. And sometimes even the lone CNN channel goes bad.
This has been my sad plight as a consumer since October last year when the service faltered. When we call to complain, our calls are diverted to “Sales.” And on the very rare occasion when we finally got through to inform Sky Cable of our complaint, they promised to send a serviceman on a Saturday. That Saturday passed with no one responding.
When we called the week after, we were told that their crew came, and made adjustments to the cable wires outside our house. Still no dice. Who were they fooling?
It’s now 2020, and four months have passed since we first noticed that the cable service was abysmally bad. I am tired of complaining. I just want to shoot the service purveyors, or their outsourced repair agents, maybe even their insensitive telephone operators.
Who owns Sky Cable, which airs ABS-CBN fare? Lopez, Pangilinan, whoever? I am filled with glee every time the President curses you guys.