Stem the flow

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An impending water shortage is one piece of news that is almost always guaranteed to bring about a collective wail.

Metro Manila residents let loose a groan of annoyance when suddenly they found, without much warning, that there would be water rationing for an indefinite period of time as the El Niño comes, bringing the dry season.

One wonders how such a rain-rich country as ours has not yet found a way to collect water for use by the ever-growing population while flooding has almost now become a way of life.

The Angat Dam and its capacity (or incapacity) during the wet and dry seasons are stories worth examining later.

In Taiwan, they had long invented a way for rainwater to be collected at an elevated area so that this can be useful rather than destructive. What has been stopping us from finding a similar solution?

It makes one think — with all the talent this country boasts, why government had not harnessed the Filipino’s innate resourcefulness to think of a way to make our natural resources work for us more efficiently?

Is it because priorities were never straight, or because leaders we have had simply didn’t know how to lead?

Instead, bright minds seemed to be at work creating ever inventive ways to siphon public service funds into their bank accounts.

As a result, there had practically been nothing going on in the realm of development.
Government leaders had not been one in bringing the country forward. They were too busy making speeches against one another or too preoccupied with notions of power and prolonging their hold on it.

Meanwhile, people have suffered from the same old problems, year in and year out, ad nauseam.

It makes the election seasons somewhat of a farce as leaders play rigodon, preening among themselves and probably thinking how privileged everyone is to have such a good leader as he or she.

After their terms of office, the tides would often turn and the one next in line would blame the previous leaders of the current ills. People don’t think much about how and why things began to crumble — or why they ended up with deadly floods, water shortages, power outages and traffic to beat helldom.

Let’s talk about the urban warrior’s daily battlefield, for one.

What did the former heads of Transportation do before the current administration undertook the massive project of modernizing the country’s transport system?

Can we say, “Not much?”

We already know that transport officials under the Aquino administration had been tagged as responsible for the Metro Rail Transit-3 (MRT-3) mess.

One may recall former Palace spokesman Harry Roque saying they were charged with plunder because of their “incompetence and corruption.”

Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya, descended from the first President of the Philippines, allegedly led an anomalous transaction that, again to quote Roque, made the department a “cash cow.”

Ineptitude and greed had succeeded in stunting our growth as a nation in many ways; in the realm of transport, these were like a derailment.

Forgive the people then for looking askance at the subway plan. Already bogged down by many inconveniences such as traffic, many are worried that nothing much will come out of this one, except gaping holes on the ground and our country’s coffers.

But hope arises from obvious efforts to stick to target dates, for example. When the current leadership at the Department of Transportation said it would begin the subway project on 27 February, it did.

When it said there would be new airports and upgraded ports, there they were.

These have chipped some of the cynicism away, seeing such fast results and a master plan that looks toward an imaginable future.

To think the subway project had been first proposed in 1973! Forty-five years ago, the Overseas Technological Cooperation Agency (now JICA) and former Public Works and Transportation Secretary David Consunji had recommended this transport mode as part of the Urban Transport Study in Metropolitan Manila Area or the Metro Manila Dream Plan, according to an online news portal.

Even then, the dream had been for “a modern, well-integrated, coordinated and affordable transport system (that) would address Metro Manila’s problems in traffic, land use and the environment.”

Obviously, a lot can happen in 45 years, but it seems not a lot did.

Leaders from the time of Marcos decided not to implement the subway plan because of other concerns including, in 1977, “flooding concerns in the areas affected by the project such as Marikina, Cainta, Rosario, Tondo, Manila, Mandaluyong, Pateros and Pasay.”

One can only imagine why these places still have this problem to this day!

Ferdinand Marcos decided on the elevated transit system; decades later, we have an MRT mess that the new Transport department has been trying to fix, among other neglected or mismanaged programs that flood every new set of leaders.

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