POSTSCRIPT / July 27, 2021 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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See the true SONA, look at your kids…

THE TRUE state of the nation is not in the speeches of politicians clinging to their positions of power and privilege. Neither is it in the pretty picture painted by their propagandists. The state of the nation, reflected in our families’ situation, is the sum of what we see and feel around us.

Look around. Look at your children when they are asleep, when they sit at the breakfast table to partake of what you have prepared… How do you feel about their missing things they need and what you want for them? Do you worry no end about their health and safety, especially when they are out of sight? Our anxieties about our children define the collective state of the nation.

As we write this column Monday noon, we do not know if our view of the national condition coincides with the picture that President Duterte would draw in his final State of the Nation Address (SONA) later in the day at the Batasang Pambansa plenary hall.

The President talking to a sparsely occupied chamber cuts a lonely figure trying to reconnect to 16 million voters that, five years ago, swallowed his bait, his promise of less crime and more jobs, less corruption and better services – generally vowing to make life more comfortable for the Filipino.

The media have been rerunning his pledges and programs so nobody forgets them.

Now, look around. Look at your family, especially your children, and you will know if yesterday’s SONA was an honest report on the true state of the nation or an inadvertent revelation by a lame duck President of his state of mind before he exits.

 Villar is top performer of Buildx3

WHILE waiting for SONA details last week, we asked some friends in media who in their opinion are the most productive Cabinet secretaries, without giving them criteria to guide or limit their choices.

Emerging as the top performer was DPWH Secretary Mark Villar, followed by DoTr Secretary Arthur Tugade. Look around to see why they topped the list.

There were two other Cabinet performers whose handiwork may not be as palpable as steel and concrete structures but who received high marks nonetheless. They were Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. who performed their delicate jobs of fending off foreign interlopers with forceful finesse.

Villar’s list of projects under the administration’s Build, Build, Build program won’t fit in our space. So we compressed it, losing in the process its human elements such as the harnessing of 6.57 million workers, many of them OFWs drove back home by the pandemic, and stimulating big and small businesses, as well as countryside development.

Villar oversaw the building of 29,264 kilometers of roads, 5,950 bridges, 11,340 flood control projects, 222 evacuation centers, and 150,149 classrooms.

The Pigalo bridge in Isabela, a good example, enables farmers to take their produce to Manila or Tuguegarao in a much shorter time. Another one, the Central Luzon Link Freeway cuts the more than one-hour travel between Nueva Ecija and Tarlac to 20 minutes.

A new Transcentral Road accelerates the return of normalcy to war-torn Marawi. The Cebu Cordova Link Bridge, the Philippines’ longest, dramatizes the continuing linking of Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao.

In the national capital, ribbons of new roads, some of them elevated, inject new vigor to the economy. Samples are the Skyway Stage 3, the NLEX Harbor Link, the C5 Southlink, the Kalayaan Bridge, and the Radial Road 10, contributing to decongesting the 90-year-old EDSA.

On transportation, which is basically moving people and goods from point A to point B in the least possible time with the least confusion and expense of means, we have Tugade busy putting up transportation systems in partnership with Villar, the DPWH workhorse.

Since 2016, Tugade’s DoTr has completed 214 airport projects, including the Clark International Airport’s new terminal, Mactan-Cebu International Airport, Bohol-Panglao International Airport, and the airports in Sangley, Kalibo, Dumaguete, Ormoc, and Tuguegarao.

In the maritime sector, Tugade has completed 451 seaport projects. These include the Cagayan de Oro Port, the country’s biggest port passenger terminal, the ports in Currimao, Ilocos Norte; Victoria in Laguna; Tagbilaran and Maribojoc in Bohol; Borac, San Fernando and Bataraza in Palawan; Dumaguete, Limasawa, and Ormoc in the Visayas; General Santos, Babak in Davao Del Norte; and Cantillan in Surigao.

On land, the DoTr has completed nearly 500 kilometers of bike lanes in Metro Cebu, Metro Davao and Metro Manila, aside from the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange, and the EDSA Busway. It initiated the country’s first service contracting program, which pays drivers on a per-kilometer run and grants performance-based incentives.

In railways, the DoTr completed the LRT-2 East Extension, while working on the LRT-1 Cavite Extension, Common Station, Metro Manila Subway, MRT-7, MRT-3 Rehabilitation, North-South Commuter Railway, and the Mindanao Railway.

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OTHER Cabinet men favorably cited in our mini-survey (with sample comments of our media friends) were:

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. for their strong and courageous stand, albeit measured (which is understandable), to uphold the UNCLOS-based arbitral ruling in The Hague against China’s claim on most of the South China Sea including sections of Philippine maritime areas; Lorenzana guarding national security despite the pro-China bias of his chief; Health Secretary Francisco Duque for his lakas ng loob, not distracted by strong criticisms, to ensure a successful vaccination program; Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea for being a silent worker unaffected by political intramurals; Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello for helping local laborers and OFWs in the midst of COVID-19; Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra for doing his best to be impartial in case investigations, treatment of issues, and avoiding sipsip comments.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 27, 2021)

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