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Breaktime

Breaktime: Plan for the horse

About five years ago in 2010, when our beloved leader, Benigno Simeon (a.k.a. BS), delivered his first Sona—the State of the Nation Address by the President of the Republic—the guys down here in my barangay jumped for joy over his one single revelation.

Right there and then, our dear leader, BS, proclaimed the problem over the sorry state of infrastructure in the country as solved.

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For he unveiled the Aquino (Part II) administration’s version of the old recycled infrastructure-building program called PPP, or the public private partnership.

“We will get what we need without spending,” he told the whole nation and the whole world at that time. “We will even make money.”

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Bear in mind that, down here, we often heard the experts declaring that the solution to our miserable quality of life in the metropolis would simply be infrastructure.

Every day for the longest time now we are reminded that we must plan for the worst, since we often suffered from constant street floods, horrendous standstill traffic, crowded public transportation, lack of sidewalks, air and water pollution, overpopulation, high cost of living, prohibitive electricity and water bills, and uncollected garbage.

Studies after studies pointed out that this country needed to modernize its infrastructure to address those problems. Those studies feared that time could be running out on us.

So far nothing much really happened in the much-touted PPP program of the Aquino (Part II) administration except more hype and more promises.

As far back as 2012, during the annual meeting of Manila-based multilateral institution Asian Development Bank, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima still had nothing but nice things to say about the PPP program.

Echoing the boast of his boss, Purisima proclaimed that the PPP program would be “the most successful in Asia” by 2016, or the end of the term of our leader, BS.

Unfortunately, even with just a little more than a year to go in the Aquino (Part II) administration, the guys down here in my barangay would still have to see even just one completed infrastructure project under the much-ballyhooed PPP program.

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And the boys of our leader BS at the Palace even had the nerve to peddle their propaganda line about how their boss would “crush” those who oppose his reforms and his fight against corruption.

Boss, what reforms?

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Instead, we continue to hear horror stories about how government officials themselves were involved in controversies over urban planning.

Over in Quezon City, for instance, on a busy street called Katipunan Ave., at the subdivision called Blue Ridge, the residents were fighting a seven-story building project that seemed to have obtained the blessings of city hall officials.

They possibly even included Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista, known in the city as “Bistek,” his nickname in show business.

Anyway, it seemed that the Lagumbay family, who have been politically prominent in the city for the longest time, with one of them having served as city councilor for three terms, sold a 3,000-sqm property to the owners of an international school called MIIS.

The residents there were surprised to see that the structures in the property were already demolished—without permit from government agencies, at that. They quickly did their homework and found out that the new owners of the property wanted to construct a school campus in the property.

But then again, a city ordinance called Revised Quezon City Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance, made into law in 2013, already put the area as a so-called SUDZ.

That was “special urban development zone,” meaning, whoever owned the 3,000-sqm property at Blue Ridge could not build businesses like gas station, mortuary, automotive shop, karaoke bar or night club, restaurant and—surprise—school.

That the city government deemed the area as SUDZ was understandable, because the traffic in that part of the city, for instance, could be the one of the worst parts of the whole stretch of the C-5 system.

Residents in the area even noted that the student population of MIIS could be expected to reach more than a thousand.

Thus, at one car per student during the rush hour in the morning and in the afternoon, such a student population would create a long line of cars stretching along more than five—again, five—kilometers of the already jam-packed C-5 road system.

Anyway, when the residents complained to the MIIS that the property was covered by SUDZ, who should come to the rescue of MIIS but city hall itself.

It seemed that the “city planning office” insisted the area still to be classified as C-1 under the zoning system of Quezon City, meaning, it was a minor commercial zone, in which the owners could put up offices, retail outlets, service shops and eateries.

By the way, could we take it that the “planning” in the name of the office had something to do at all with urban planning?

And what, pray tell, was the most compelling reason of the “city planning office” to give an “opinion” on its own, by the way, without hearing the voice of those people most affected by the mammoth construction project in the area?

Well, the misnamed “planning” office opined that the area was not yet covered by the SUDZ rule under the city ordinance spelling out the new zoning in the entire city.

According to the bright guys at the office, the MMDA and the HLURB had yet to affirm or ratify the new zoning done by the Quezon City council. Wow!

Again, the ordinance was actually part of the series of city ordinances passed by the Quezon City council in 2013—or about two years ago. The mayor also signed it into law and then it was published in a major newspaper.

Question: how much time did the MMDA and the HLURB needed to sleep on the job and finally come to ratify or affirm the zoning “law.”

With the city planning office seemingly on their side, the MIIS people thus asked the very same city planning office for a “location clearance,” which was a prerequisite in getting a construction permit from the office of the mayor.

Yes, that should be Bistek!

The bad news would be that the residents in the area already expected city hall to go along the MIIS project all the way.

The last I heard was that they already went to court, which did not exactly give the thousands of users of the C-5 road system much comfort, given the many stories about horse-trading in the government, including the judicial system.

We just have to remember what our leader BS said: “We will even make money.”

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TAGS: Aquino administration, Bistek, Herbert Bautista, Infrastructure, PPP, public-private partnership, Quezon City, Urban Planning, zoning ordinance
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