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Delayed DOTC projects

/ 11:30 PM January 18, 2015

TRANSPORTATION and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya is getting the flak for a decision his predecessor made earlier  that is being implemented only now.

Three years ago, the Department of Transportation and Communications approved the upward adjustment of the fares in the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT).

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For one reason or another, the execution of the fare hike was held in abeyance. It was bound to draw, as it did, adverse public reaction.

In what may be considered a case of bad timing, with MRT and LRT recently suffering from breakdowns and accidents, its passengers are being asked to foot the bill for the improvement of the railways’ facilities and services.

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The fare increase is the latest controversy to hit the government agency tasked with ensuring the smooth conveyance of people and products, and the efficient transmission of communications.

It will be recalled that when President Aquino assumed office in 2010, he declared the improvement of the country’s transportation and communications facilities and services as one of his administration’s priorities.

On that note, he appointed Jose De Jesus, former public works and highway secretary of the late President Cory Aquino and well-known management expert, as DOTC head.

Appointments

Unfortunately, De Jesus did not have sufficient time to put his expertise to good use. He quit after one year, supposedly for health reasons.

There were rumors that he resigned because the President refused to sack the then head of the Land Transportation Office (who happens to be his gun shooting buddy) for alleged irregularities in office.

Ever the gentleman that he is, De Jesus held his peace and quietly returned to civilian life.

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He was succeeded by defeated vice presidential candidate Manuel Roxas II who held the post for a little over a year before being appointed to the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

Outside of preparing plans and programs for the construction and improvement of bus terminals, airports, sea ports and other similar infrastructure projects, his stint at the DOTC was unremarkable.

The so-called technocrats he brought with him to DOTC were so absorbed with technicalities and protecting themselves from possible graft charges that most of the projects reached only the planning or pre-bidding stage.

The result? The country’s transportation and communications infrastructure hardly had any substantial improvement during his DOTC stint.

Prospects

Except for the Mactan-Cebu International Airport renovation, LRT Line 1 Cavite Extension project and the automatic fare collection system for MRT and LRT, the rest of the private-public partnership programs that Abaya wants to implement are either under pre-investment study or pending approval by the National Economic and Development Authority.

With only 18 months to go in the Aquino administration, it is doubtful if those projects, considering their magnitude and costs, can be awarded and their contracts signed before the 2016 elections.

The wish list includes the P320-billion North and South railways system, the P374.5 billion Mass Transit Loop system that will connect the business districts of Makati, Taguig and Pasig, and the Manila Bay-Pasig River-Laguna Lake Ferry Service.

In the meantime, while awaiting the gestation of these projects in the remaining days of the Aquino administration or by whoever succeeds him, the public has no choice but continue to endure traffic jams, congested airport operations, inefficient maritime service and Third World-class communications systems.

The DOTC’s performance record on project implementation pales in comparison to those of the Department of Education (DepEd) and Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

Setting aside the usual cynics in our midst, Education Secretary Armin Luistro and Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson have, by and large, met the accomplishment targets they have been given by the President at the start of his administration.

Management

Luistro and Singson have a common denominator: They are not politicians and they cut their teeth in the private sector before they joined the government.

Luistro was once the president of De La Salle University System and administered the affairs of eight De La Salle institutions.

Prior to his appointment to the DPWH, Singson was president and CEO of Maynilad Water Services Inc.

They knew how to formulate policies, delegate responsibilities and manage the activities of their staff to accomplish their key results areas.

Since they have no political ambitions, nor are they burdened by political debts incurred prior to their entry into government, they have been able to steer their departments in the directions set for them by the President within the limits of their authority and the constraints of their budgets.

Unfortunately, the DOTC has not been similarly endowed with such professional expertise.

Except for its first secretary under the Aquino administration, De Jesus, the former and present DOTC heads are dyed in the wool politicians.

They have not had the management training and experience that Luistro and Singson have brought into their departments and resulted in solid accomplishments.

Would things have turned differently at DOTC had De Jesus been given the opportunity to apply his management expertise in the same way and breadth that Luistro and Singson were able to do so?

We’ll never know the answer to this question. But, as the saying goes, you can’t win them all.

Meanwhile, the agony at the streets, airports and seaports continues.

For comments, please send your email to “[email protected]

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TAGS: Abaya, Business, De Jesus, delays, Department of Transportation and Communications, DoTC, economy, Metro Rail Transit, News, Projects, the Light Rail Transit
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