Another bridge too sparse | Inquirer Business

Another bridge too sparse

/ 01:48 AM April 13, 2015

AN INDISTINCT barangay (village) bridge catapulted to national prominence last week, snatching more media attention than the mysterious 8-hour long debilitating blackout in Mindanao or the worrisome occupation of Philippine territory by China.

And it was all because, during its official reopening ceremony, the leader of 100 million Filipinos, our dear Benigno Simeon (aka BS), dropped a political bomb.


He traveled all the way to the City of Ilagan in Isabela province to reopen the repaired Lullutan Bridge that happened to connect two small barangays.

Now, the entire City of Ilagan had a population of some 135,000, according to the latest official census done in 2010, which was also the first year of the Aquino (Part II) administration.


In his speech during the ceremony, our dear leader, BS, reportedly took a snipe at the past three administrations before him for their failure to repair the bridge.

Actually, a strong typhoon damaged the bridge way back in 1995, forcing the farmers in the area to use barges to cross the Cagayan River.

Thus, it had to be the Aquino (Part II) administration that should undertake its P700-million repair, meaning, it took some 20 years for the government to reopen one darn typhoon-damaged bridge.

Can you imagine that?

But if indeed it was such a vital and critical bridge, why did the Aquino (Part II) administration itself also take almost five long years to reopen it in 2015, or all of five years after our dear leader, BS, started to rule in Malacañang in 2010?

Listening to the words of our dear BS, you would think that the bridge was the economic salvation of the Philippines, or that of his fast-sliding popularity rating.

From what I gathered, anyway, the bridge was some 500 meters long with a weight load of 20 tons—compared to most bridges in the world with weight loads of at least 40 tons each.


It meant that an average-size fuel tanker, just a stupid ordinary truck, should not even be allowed legally and technically to pass through the bridge in that small barangay of Ilagan (population 135,000) in Isabela province, which would only be a good 6-hour travel time from Metro Manila.

If it would not be too much to ask, boss, how much economic activity could the bridge really generate?

Still, nobody could deny our dear leader, BS, his claim to greatness by trying to make himself appear to be serving his “bosses,” as he talked of the untold benefits of the bridge to the farmers in the area.

Oh, my mistake, make that “poor” farmers!

Consider, for a moment, that two consecutive surveys already showed that his popularity rating took a sharp downturn last month.

To his political allies, particularly those in his Liberal Party, the downturn would weaken somewhat his “endorsement power” in the 2016 national elections.

His boys in Malacañang thus seemed to have adopted a new strategy, projecting him as heaven’s gift to economic management and the champion corruption buster, designed to bolster his “endorsement power” once again.

While the bridge in barangay Lullutan would not be considered a major-impact bridge by any standard or measure, the reopening somehow could be one more event for our dear leader, BS, to launch another political nuclear warhead.

And so in his speech he attacked the previous three administrations for neglecting the repair of the bridge. For one, he said, it could have been done 20 years ago at much less cost.

Hmmm—former President Joseph Estrada (aka the man named Band … Wrist Band) has been rather quiet lately, while former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (aka Gloriaetta) has been under “hospital arrest” for more than four years.

Only former President Fidel V. Ramos (aka Kuya Eddie) lately has been critical of our dear leader, BS, regarding the latter’s alleged incompetence that led to the massacre of some 44 police commandos in Mindanao last January.

Look, the last time I checked, the cute administration of Gloriaetta actually built seven new major, billion-peso bridges in Pangasinan, Cebu, Leyte, Isabela and La Union.

As for the Aquino (Part II) administration … well, none so far.

That one bridge in the rather sparse accomplishment of the current administration in our much-needed infrastructure development, well, was actually a part of the DPWH program called, impossibly, the Urgent Bridges Construction Project for Rural Development.

The program, in turn, was actually an indirect offshoot of the “master plan” crafted during the time of Kuya Eddie way back in 1994 that covered the repair of a multitude of deteriorating bridges all over the country at that time.

The administration of Kuya Eddie found out that, of the almost 7,300 major permanent bridges in the country, some 1,700 of them were in dire need of repair and rehabilitation.

It would cost more than P1 trillion to do it all—even at that time!

The government thus had to prioritize the repair of those 1,700 bridges, by formulating a “master plan,” particularly addressed to foreign funders.

Thus a number of foreign-funded bridge programs came up over the years, such as the Rehabilitation and Maintenance of Bridges along Arterial Road (funded by the OECF and Japan’s JBIC), the Constructing Bridges along Rural Roads (funded by Japan’s Jica), the Bridge Retrofit Project (funded by the ADB), and the President’s Bridge Program (partly funded by the British government).

As for the inter-barangay bridge in Ilagan (population 135,000) in the pathetically sparse infrastructure accomplishment of the Aquino (Part II) administration—well, it probably would have to undergo the economic cost-benefit criteria under those foreign-funded programs.

Still, the reopening of the barangay Lullutan bridge should naturally grab national news prominence because our dear leader, BS, could not help himself in, one, attacking the three previous administrations and, two, talking about his “reform agenda.”

He told his “bosses” to vote for candidates with integrity so that they would continue his “reform agenda” (read as “matuwid na daan”) and what the Palace boys termed as “economic renewal.”

Well, the business sector already knew way back in 2010 that they could not rely on our dear leader, BS, for some hands-on economic management.

And so the economic miracle that the boys in Malacañang suddenly claimed as the result of the hard work of our dear leader, BS, was clearly a farce.

Besides, according to the survey of top executives done by the World Economic Forum as part of its “world competitive index,” at the top of the list of the “most problematic factors for doing business” in the Philippines was still corruption.

Next to corruption were inadequate infrastructure, tax regulations, inefficient government bureaucracy, and tax rates.

Look, boss, all those five problematic factors concerned “governance,” and yet the Palace boys trumpeted it as the best thing that ever happened to this country under the Aquino (Part II) administration.

Oh, by the way, the administration also started to promise lately that our dear leader, BS, would step up infrastructure development in his remaining days in office, even citing an impressive figure of infrastructure expenditures at 5 percent of GDP.

Wow. It was just that he should have stepped up about five years ago.

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