Regime change at DOTC urged | Inquirer Business

Regime change at DOTC urged

By: - Business News Editor / @daxinq
/ 02:55 AM September 27, 2013

An internationally recognized transportation sector consultant has called for a revamp of the Department of Transportation and Communications due to its inability to move the government’s mass transport program forward, over three years into the Aquino administration’s term.

In a briefing, Bellwether Advisory Inc. president Rene Santiago said that the failure of DOTC to successfully bid out the Light Rail Transit line 1 extension project last month was but one symptom of the ills afflicting the department.

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Santiago—who has served as consultant to many successful mass transport projects both locally and abroad over the last three decades—said the department’s transportation infrastructure program was being bogged down by “too many lawyers.”

The current leadership, from the undersecretary to assistant secretary levels, were brought in by then Transportation Secretary Manuel Roxas II, and was retained by Sec. Joseph Emilio Abaya when the former was moved to the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

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“You have to consider a new team at DOTC—a complete revamp,” said Santiago, adding that the department’s “project execution problems” can easily be solved by technical specialists. “If you’ll appoint lawyers again, nothing will happen.”

Explaining that it takes at least nine months, at best, to prepare a project from bidding until awarding to the successful investor, he said it was now unlikely that any mass transit project would be completed before President Aquino steps down in mid-2016.

Nonetheless, he said the Aquino administration could still leave an important legacy—long delays notwithstanding—by acting decisively during the time it has left in office.

He noted that the extension of the LRT Line 2 from Masinag—a mere 4-kilometers worth of new overhead rail systems—would be the easiest to achieve, given that it has no right of way issues.

The LRT 1 extension from Baclaran to Cavite, on the other hand, remains plagued with unresolved right of way problems that are likely to slow the project down further.

Despite this, the Aquino administration can decide to start work on these two projects, along with other transportation infrastructure deals, on its own because its strong fiscal position gives it the spending capacity to do so.

While the project is being built, the government can then turn around and privatize the transportation system in question to investors, promising to turn it over once construction is completed.

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Santiago pointed out, however, that such a solution would require political will to execute on the part of the administration.

The transportation consultant—who has done multiple studies for the Asian Development Bank, as well as the governments of Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines—said that the same decision-making malaise afflicts DOTC in deciding on the country’s airport system.

“When your team is not performing, the only choice you make as a manager is to replace your team,” he stressed.

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TAGS: Aquino administration, Department of Transportation and Communications, Infrastructure, mass transport program, Philippines, Rene Santiago, revamp
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